Perspectives on crime

May 27, 2010

Comparing Ventura's crime with L.A.'s crime is like comparing these two pieces of fruit together.

There’s no denying that crime is bad in Ventura County, especially in places like Oxnard. It seems like at least 75 percent of deaths logged by the grassroots Parents of Murdered Children took place in the city. Brutal gang violence on a daily basis, drug problems, and the like.

Some crimes, though draw more attention than necessary. Take the Oxnard P.D. shooting of an armed robbery suspect this week.

The guy, who had just been freed from jail three weeks prior,  was apprehended by authorities and shot during a standoff. Some are claiming it was another case of “Suicide by cop.”

Others are coming down on the cop for using excessive force. Others still, waving the racist, anti-Latino card once again, have even said the deceased had it coming(!).

Our local competitor’s Web site logs over 360 reader comments on the story alone. The back and forth, and back and forth … and back and forth … continues for a story that, frankly, is small potatoes in the big bad world of Los Angeles crime.

Take this blog entry, for example:

http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/lanow/2010/05/homicide-report-16-killings-last-week-in-la-county-four-domesticviolence-related.html

There were 16 … count ’em, 16 … killings in L.A. County last week. Four of them were domestic violence-related. That’s in one week. Ventura County hasn’t seen the likes of that for years.

Taking the officer shooting story, along with another local story today on a very inebriated, aggressive man getting ejected from a Simi Valley bar — both standard policies for both cases — makes one wonder why we get so up in arms in the VC over incidents that don’t hold a candle to what happens south of our county line.

If it means that we live in an *overall* safer area, there should be no reason to complain … that is, unless we want to duplicate L.A.’s spate of criminal activity in Ventura.

Could that happen? Maybe. Police officials like to link medical marijuana dispensaries with a rise in crime. Many marijuana dispensaries in L.A. are closing up shop. Could they migrate north and bring crime with them here?

Scroll down three blog postings on this page to find out.

If people keep neglecting state cell phone regulations, expect this to happen soon.

If people keep neglecting state cell phone regulations, expect this to happen soon.

Happy Fourth of July weekend! If you’re calling someone on your cell phone to bestow the summertime holiday cheer, you’re most likely still doing it behind the wheel, according to local cops who say people are still ignoring cell phone laws set into place a year ago today.

That’s right, on July 1, 2008, California enacted two ordinances, one barring any motorist over 18 to drive a car while holding a cell phone; and the second barring anyone under 18 from using a cell phone at all when driving. Hands-free devices are allowed.

But it hasn’t made much of a difference, or so we hear from police. They say last July they issued over 700 citations to people violating the law, and that number steadily dropped over the rest of the year. But for some bold reason, since the turn of 2009, those numbers have gone up again, and, according to reports, in March drivers along the Central Coast racked up over 900 citations.

People, we’re hanging up on the law by picking up our phones!

What I didn’t realize was the paltry fee tacked onto a cell phone-while-driving offense. Twenty bucks is hardly anything to bat an eyelash at. Even with other procedural and administrative court costs, a speeding ticket still tends to set one back a bit more. I suggest raising the price tag on the cell phone infraction to deter people from yakking away at the wheel.

The consequences are heavier than just a ticket, too. Drop your phone, take your eyes off the road to scamper around your sedan’s interior, and you end up worse than Albert Brooks did in Defending Your Life.

If the two laws were gift horses, and we’re looking them square in the mouth, could legislators someday enact a total ban on cell phones while driving? It would set back technological advancement in California, for certain.

Less dialing, more driving!

The O.J. of the VC

June 3, 2009

From the way the Faria Beach case is unfolding, the suspected killer of a Ventura couple has got nothing on O.J. Simpson, pictured here in his 1994 mugshot.

From the way the Faria Beach murder case is unfolding, O.J. Simpson, pictured here in his 1994 mugshot, has got nothing on the suspected killer of a Ventura couple.

Two weeks from today will mark the 15th anniversary Orenthal James Simpson was arrested for the brutal stabbing murder of his ex-wife and her companion.

In the most famous of  criminal trials in the history of the U.S., O.J. was acquitted, but the stigma of the crime, and the public’s certainty that he was the real killer, have persisted to this day.

The more I hear about new details emerging in last month’s shocking Faria Beach murders here in Ventura, the more I’m reminded of O.J.

Here we had a wealthy, attractive couple, attacked stealthily in the night, stabbed multiple times, with the mystery killer slipping away, leaving the most horrific of crime scenes.

At first the killings of the Husteds, much like Nicole Brown and Ron Goldman, were considered random. But those claims have quickly turned into theories that the killings were planned and the couple targeted.

Today, it was reported that police have warrants to search four vehicles (including a boat) registered to Brock Husted. The search warrants are sealed.

(Sealed search warrants = The police know something more they don’t want to tell us.)

Going on the warrants alone tells anyone that there’s something deeper to this case, i.e. that the Faria killings were not random at all, planned out to the last detail.

Online posters and conspiracy theorists have conjured up scenarios of a secret affair gone bad; business deals soured; or personal animosity sent further awry.

Just the most cursory of details points the crime in that direction. There was nothing taken from the house (eliminating robbery); a knife, not a gun, was used (the killer kept the incident quiet); and he/she concealed their identity with a motorcycle helmet (could they have otherwise been recognized by the Husteds?).

The killer, once caught, could become the O.J. Simpson of Ventura County. There’s no doubt this trial will be highly publicized beyond belief: the switching off of legal teams, wrongful death suits abounding, the final penalties dire.

Whatever the outcome, if you take away all the rest, both crimes are similar in at least one way: people had to lose their lives through senseless violence.

The headline of this blog posting reveals the answer, but I’m going to ask the question anyway …

What do Ashton Kutcher, Oprah Winfrey, the Mount Redoubt volcano and the Thousand Oaks Police Department have in common?

Give up? They’ve all jumped on the techno-bandwagon known as Twittering.

Twitter, for the uninitiated, is another form of online social networking which allows users to log onto the Web and post immediate, short blurb phrases updating the curious to what they’re doing right at this very moment.

For instance, “I’m eating a sandwich.” Or, “Feeling lucky today.” Or, “On Cloud 9 because it’s payday.”

I had heard of Twitter before. Like MySpace, Facebook, and every other Web site of its ilk, it’s been around for a good amount of time. But it seems like just in the past week has everyone and their grandmother decided that Twitter is the best thing since sliced bread.

Not a day has gone by this week that I haven’t heard of somebody jumping on the Twitter bandwagon. Why now?

I could excuse celebrities like Kutcher or Oprah for their impulsive ways to try and stay hip and current in the public’s eye. But when local police departments join in, it makes me wonder.

Is T.O. looking to somehow better their law enforcement techniques through Twitter, or are they just looking for some Hollywood-style publicity, too?

This morning, T.O. Police “tweeted” a traffic update. According to a press release from them, the department used the site to announce their “Tip-A-Cop” program in correspondence with an incident at a local restaurant.

So, in this case, it could work for enacting justice across the land.

What I still don’t get is the increasing narcissism I see among the Internet community. Hell, even Mount Redoubt, an Alaskan volcano, has its own Twitter account, letting people know when it might erupt!

I can remember just a decade ago when the WWW was a nifty little tool nobody expected to change the way we connect. Speaking as an Internet enthusiast, it’s still too bad that it’s too often become a tool for short-attention-spanning, self-absorption.

Some colleagues of mine have predicted that while the Internet boom will still evolve, the allure of instant social networking will quiet down and level off to a mere tweet.

I know, a better question would be: Should I change the name of this blog to The Fillmore Estate?

Lately, it’s the one municipality in our stately Ventura County I’ve scrawled about the most on here, but for good reason: it just goes to show that this tiny little enclave has seen a heckuva good amount of activity of the criminal kind.

Received a police report this weekend reporting on a supposed gang-related assault on two men … two times, no less.

According to the sheriff’s department, both men, 22 and 49 respectively, were kicked, punched and hit with a rock by the gangsters, in a pair of incidents that left the victims with moderate-to-serious injuries.

The alleged gang members? Only 16 and 17 years old.

Authorities are expected to make more arrests in this case, which makes me wonder if the Fillmore brass’d be wise to follow in the footsteps of Oxnard, where two gang injunctions are in place legally that both identify known gang members and disallow them from perpetuating certain criminal behaviors.

The injunctions have worked to reasonable success in the county’s most violent city. Could other cities have good use for an injunction as well?