Crime

Safest city in Stanislaus? Newman by a far sight, new crime report says.

Snapshot of what makes Newman special

A resident and business owner in Newman, Calif. talk about what makes the community special on Monday September 9, 2019. According to a new report, Newman is the safest city in Stanislaus County.
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A resident and business owner in Newman, Calif. talk about what makes the community special on Monday September 9, 2019. According to a new report, Newman is the safest city in Stanislaus County.

Newman not only is the safest city in Stanislaus County, it’s among the 20 safest in all the state, according to a new report.

Security Baron, a consumer-focused website dealing in matters of home security, property security, cybersecurity and more, used FBI crime-reporting data from 2016-17 to rank 300 California cities. It considered rates for homicide, rape, robbery, assault, burglary, theft, vehicle theft and arson. It also factored in the number of police officers per 1,000 people.

The report includes 300 cities, and Newman is the only one in Stanislaus County to be in even the top 150. Oakdale ranks 151st, Ceres 241st, Turlock 242nd, and Modesto 277th.

In neighboring counties, Gustine came in 93rd, Los Banos 207th, Atwater 247th, Merced 251st, Ripon 60th, Escalon 163rd and Manteca 205th.

Nino Betsi lives in Gustine but has his business, Nino’s Auto Repair, in Newman. On what makes Newman safe, he said, “It’s a small community and a good police force. You know how small cities like Gustine and Newman are.”

The Newman Police Department is highly visible, with officers almost always patrolling Main and other streets, Betsi said. “I know that has a lot to do with it, because they see the police, and the people who are up to no good don’t like that.”

Randy Richardson, the city’s police chief, believes community engagement is vital to his department’s success.

“Our officers are invested in this community and we have a great core of staff who believe in this community,” Richardson said. “They stay proactive with contacts, and stops being visible is a helpful deterrent for crime.”

Veterinarian Suzanne Solvin is another business owner who lives elsewhere but works in Newman. The Stevinson resident owns Westside Animal Hospital on N Street, and said she’s there six days a week, often into the late hours.

But Solvin said she’s never felt threatened, and she, like Betsi, chalks that up largely to an excellent Police Department. “I think the Police Department is really engaged with the community, and very visible,” she said.

Given her profession, Solvin has a special fondness for K9 teams. Sadly, Newman PD is down to just one dog, Ares, since the December 2018 killing of Cpl. Ronil Singh and the retirement of his dog, Sam.

The K9s always have have gotten a lot of love when visiting schools and community events, the doctor said. And the bad guys respect them, grudgingly at least, because they don’t want to feel their chomp.

Solvin sees a lot of dogs and, of course, their owners. “So many (of her patients’ human companions) have lived here their whole lives. They know who’s been good since kindergarten and who to watch out for,” she said. “I really think the society of a small town keeps people better behaved.”

Richardson said that small town feel helped residents — and his staff — get through the tragic loss of Singh.

“Instead of hiding in fear, the community came together and supported our police department,” he said. “They began to talk and meet neighbors, which plays a big role in knowing who should be in their neighborhoods. The community is looking out for us and each other now, more eyes to help battle crime.”

Living in a town where everybody seems to know everybody, Solvin said, isn’t for everybody. But as a former resident of San Francisco, she really likes it. There’s little or no graffiti and stray dogs, she said, because residents are vigilant about not letting those kinds of things become problems.

A snapshot look at Newman’s ranking shows the city of 11,000-plus people has only 1.15 violent crimes and 12.6 property crimes per 1,000 residents. It also says those crimes are trending downward. For comparison, the report shows 9.71 violent crimes and 39.62 property crimes per 1,000 people in Modesto.

To see the report, go to securitybaron.com/safe-cities/california.

Deke has been an editor and reporter with The Modesto Bee since 1995. He currently does breaking-news, education and human-interest reporting. A Beyer High grad, he studied geology and journalism at UC Davis and CSU Sacramento.
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