Editorials

Mayoral candidates must address Sacramento’s real crime issue

Sacramento Councilwoman Angelique Ashby, shown at a mayoral campaign forum in January, has acknowledged that her claims of crime reductions in her district were based on bad numbers.
Sacramento Councilwoman Angelique Ashby, shown at a mayoral campaign forum in January, has acknowledged that her claims of crime reductions in her district were based on bad numbers. jvillegas@sacbee.com

The mistake is embarrassing for Angelique Ashby since her mayoral campaign is based so much on her crime-fighting credentials. But her use of erroneous data wasn’t her fault, and in political terms, it’s a warning ticket at most.

Sacramento voters should pay much more attention to Ashby’s proposals – and those of her main rival, former Senate leader Darrell Steinberg – to arrest the city’s worrisome spike in violent crime.

As The Bee’s Ryan Lillis detailed on Tuesday, Ashby has repeatedly bragged that the number of crimes in her Natomas district plummeted nearly 50 percent during her first term on the City Council. She based that claim on statistics provided by the Police Department. She says she was skeptical, and checked them with the department, which reissued them as recently as November.

Unfortunately for Ashby, the numbers didn’t account for the 2011 redistricting that drastically reduced the population of her district and removed some historically high-crime neighborhoods. Based on the correct statistics, crime actually stayed flat in Ashby’s district between 2012 and 2015, while dropping citywide by 14 percent and in all seven other districts.

Ashby points out, however, that her district had the second-lowest crime rate of any district during that period. She also promotes her efforts to expand neighborhood watches and provide private security in low-income housing complexes.

City Manager John Shirey and Police Chief Sam Somers Jr. are taking the blame, so we should move on.

The far more important task for City Hall is what to do about the recent rise in violent crime, one of the biggest issues facing the next mayor. Homicides, rapes, robberies and assaults all increased last year. Sacramento’s violent crime rate jumped 25 percent in the first half of 2015 compared with the first six months of 2014 – the biggest increase among the 25 largest U.S. cities tracked by the FBI, according to the Public Policy Institute of California.

Mayor Kevin Johnson is calling on the council to fund 15 more police officers in 2016-17, and recommending more money for anti-gang programs.

Ashby, who has the backing of Sacramento’s police union, will get her say on the budget. But she also needs to fully explain her anti-crime proposals. So does Steinberg.

To start with, they should put policy papers on their campaign websites. Mail ballots go out in two months. There’s no reason to wait.

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