I recently was appointed as the Modesto police chief. During the past month, it seems everywhere I go, one of the first questions I get is "What brought you to Modesto?" or "What do you think about Modesto?"
A person who comes into a new situation always brings a different perspective with them, based on their past experiences and environment. I believe that there is a window of time when a newcomer to a group still has the outside perspective; over time, as they assimilate into the group, their views begin to mirror the group's views. With that in mind, I am taking the time to write down the view from a newcomer.
I have been extremely impressed by the warmth and welcoming nature of the community. There are a lot of good, down-to-earth people living in Modesto, people who want to have a nice place to live, work and raise a family.
The people of this community have been through a great deal since the beginning of the Great Recession, but most still have a can-do spirit. I am impressed by the patriotic spirit in the city and I have recited the pledge of allegiance and heard and-or sung "America the Beautiful" more in the past month than I had in the past couple of years.
I have met with dozens of community leaders and groups whose passion and caring for the residents in the city is unmatched anywhere.
Finally, in the spirit of what this city represents, many of my new neighbors stopped by to introduce themselves and welcome my wife and I to the neighborhood, including one who baked and brought over a loaf of banana bread. Thank you. Modesto has some of the friendliest people of any community around.
I am very proud of the ability the men and women of the Modesto Police Department have shown to catch criminals. In the past month they have caught 13 people committing robberies, 53 people committing burglaries, 30 people committing auto thefts, six people committing other violent crimes and taken 40 guns out of the hands of gang members.
Their ability to work together is truly impressive. I wish every resident could see the communication that occurs during shift briefings and the passion our officers have for their job. Unfortunately there is no highlight reel or ESPN for police officers there is only the "blooper reel," and often the public only hears about incidents when officers have made a mistake.
Not everything I have seen as a newcomer is rosy. I am extremely concerned about the number of police officers we have patrolling this city. The police officer to citizen ratio is never the whole story, or Washington, D.C., and New York would be the safest cities in America. However, in a city whose officers do not have the time to proactively address quality of life issues, make proactive stops on suspicious subjects or respond in a timely manner to calls, crime rates will rise and the quality of life will diminish.
I am already tired of feeling that you can't get out of your car at a shopping center without being accosted for money by aggressive panhandlers who are addicted to methamphetamine. People of this community should not be dealing with that every day.
We have burglaries of our homes and cars, thefts from our businesses and copper wiring being stolen out of the lights at our parks. During my conversations, individuals have told me their families in other areas don't understand why they live here; some have indicated they don't understand why someone would move here from another city; and a many have indicated there is nothing that can be done.
Recently I spoke to a concerned resident who told me her daughter and son-in-law were burglarized. They are a young couple, intelligent, family-oriented and recently moved to Modesto. After being victimized, they will be moving out of Modesto. She expressed frustration because these are the types of people we want moving to Modesto, but because of the crime we're losing them.
Frankly, I am not OK with what I have seen and experienced so far. No one in this city should be willing to put up with the daily occurrences of intimidation and crime that we experience.
As the police chief, the easiest route to take would be to quietly work on the problems and not try to make waves. I refuse to do that.
As a community, we need to get upset, get involved, stop being intimidated by cowards and work together to make this city live up to its potential.
I will do my part; however, the Modesto Police Department cannot do it alone, nor can the hundreds of dedicated community leaders. Public safety is a duty that is incumbent on every citizen in the interest of community welfare and existence.
From the eyes of a newcomer, this city has all of the intangibles to be a great place to live and raise a family; however, each neighborhood has to engage, unite and take care of each other in order for us to get there.