Santa Monica: Danger Town USA?

Saturday, 26 Apr 2014, 9:01:00 AM

Steve Stajich

Steve Stajich, Columnist
Santa Monica Mirror Archives
Steve Stajich, Columnist

At a certain point you can get statistics to “reveal” just about anything. If one were to compare the sales figures for pizza deliveries to the sales figures for legalized pot in Colorado since that state initiated its new weed policy, you might find an uptick even if there were no direct correlations simply because Pizza Hut was having one of their “Every pizza ten bucks!” promotions during the same time period.

Thus is one left to make up his or her own mind concerning a list recently published on a blog that finds that Santa Monica is ranked the 24th most dangerous suburb in the U.S. Again, according to a blog, residents here have a 1 in 45,607 chance of being murdered and a 1 in 225 chance of experiencing a violent crime. Your chance of experiencing any crime in Santa Monica is 1 in 24, higher if you believe that the cost of metered parking on our streets is “criminal.”

“Violent crime” not only includes actual violence but the threat of it being deployed. And we’re not confused about the definition of murder. We know it too well. Many are still reeling from the needless violence of the shootings at SMC.

I would posit that while some recent events may be pushing our statistics upward, we likely don’t need blog numbers to tell us that our quiet town by the ocean has been tainted of late with enough violent crime, shootings, hit and run car events, and robberies to say with some certainty “Things have changed.” Or at least, they feel as though they have.

Safety may be relative in the sense that one can go rock climbing, hanging from a precipice by a single piece of rope, and then return safely home only to slip on a bar of soap in the bathtub and experience permanent injury. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t pause over what we know is a gradual increase in crime and safety issues in our town.

Let’s at least acknowledge that we can’t have thousands of $500 hotel rooms and keep building more $500 hotel rooms and then hope that ‘perps’ won’t even notice this population of well-heeled visitors.

Can we keep our streets as safe as those of Beverly Hills or Brentwood where there are at least as many permanent residents with resources? I believe that we already have. Santa Monica police have some of the best response time numbers in Southern California. In the blessedly few times over 20-plus years here I’ve personally summoned our police I can tell you they were always impressive in responding.

So that possibly turns our focus to violence and whether we’ve lost a little ground in being isolated from such things as senseless gun events. The unpleasant reality is that all of the America has lost ground in being isolated from gun events. Urban, rural, school, work places… nowhere is there absolute and guaranteed safety from the disease of conflict resolution with guns. Recent traffic deaths and hit and run incidents may speak to the cowardly behavior of intoxicated drivers but Santa Monica’s conscientious use of DUI roadblocks, especially on holiday weekends, has clearly saved lives and heartbreak. But on the issue of gun violence events Santa Monica may be wrapped in the same deadly fog as Anytown, USA.

Is it possible we’ve pursued wiring our city for WiFi with somewhat greater gusto than we’ve invested in a zero tolerance for gun violence? I won’t pretend to know with any certainty what steps might be taken. But if we are going to stand in solidarity on WiFi access and the refurbishing of sculpture dedicated to peace, are we then not going to unify on preventing gun violence here?

I’m one of those who would call a father being unfairly critical of his child’s performance in a sports event a “violent crime” because of the needless wounds on a young psyche. But we’re not being cited by blogs for those kinds of statistics: We’re now in the mix of all that ails other cities to varying degrees. Shooting, guns, death: It does happen here. Perhaps we should unite on a focused message of lowering those numbers at least.

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