Tuesday, August 21 , 2018, 3:34 am | Overcast 67º


Ron Fink: Mini-Gangster Disputes a Big Problem in Lompoc.

Recently during a Lompoc City Council meeting, the police chief reported there had been eight shooting investigations in Lompoc since the first of the year.

This was an indicator that small-time hoodlums in the city have become more brazen in recent years.

All of this culminated in another shooting on July 4 when two men were shot in the head and another in the arm; all are expected to recover.

The area where they were shot is historically infamous. It lies in an alley between two apartment buildings that has been known for drug trafficking and gang activity for the last few decades.

Police officers regularly make arrests in this alley; conduct warrant searches in the surrounding complex for all sorts of crimes; probation officers re-arrest probationers for violating terms of their probation; and foot chases ensue as offenders try to make a break for it.

It is a haven for petty criminals who want to claim bragging rights in their circles. They start like young puppies marking their territory with scribblings and symbols only known to fledgling gangsters.

To others, it’s just a mess that defaces public and private property.

But, this area is also home to hundreds of low-income families who just want to live their lives in peace, a peace that escapes them as they are trapped among the rowdies.

When these shootings occur, it is these families and their kids who are at risk as their cars wind up with bullet holes in them.

Gangsters have no respect; their world is one of intimidation and petty posturing to establish themselves in a world of societal losers who populate the gangs of most towns.

The Police Department has tried to tamp down this dangerous trend. A few years ago, police were successful in obtaining a gang injunction that slowed the growth, association and movement of gang members.

But like everything else, it is a labor-intensive function and recent police staffing shortages have taken officers away from crime prevention efforts and reassigned them to patrol duties.

When serious crimes, like the recent shootings, occur, the Lompoc Police Department is very aggressive in its efforts to assemble the evidence, identify the perpetrators of these crimes, and arrest them.

These cases are so strongly supported by investigative police work that the suspects are found guilty and then the next phase begins.

Instead of serving their time for the crimes they commit, they often are set free early due to overcrowding in state prisons and local jails.

Thousands of inmates, who committed and were found guilty of crimes that would make the average person leery of being anywhere near them, are free to roam around.

So, where do they go when released? Right back to the same life that put them behind bars wearing the crown of a convicted criminal.

Then the game starts again; most of the police officers in Lompoc and other cities can easily identify these people because of their past and present criminal behavior. Officers have quick access to arrest warrants and often re-arrest the same people.

Lompoc has another problem, but it’s not unlike the problems of almost any city in the United States.

Recruiting qualified candidates for police-officer positions isn’t easy when there are so many detractors who are readily identifiable entertainment personalities and even several misguided politicians.

Another problem with recruitment is the current attitude toward drug use. Lompoc, like other venues throughout California, is considering legalization of marijuana.

The recent use of drugs is a show-stopper for any potential candidate, and it should be. The effects of pot can last for several days and personally I don’t want the city recruiting anyone to carry a gun who has smoked pot within five years of his/her application.

So, what can we do about these smalltime crooks who now want to shoot up our neighborhoods? The first thing is to elect state-wide politicians who have enough foresight to see that allowing these folks to infest our communities is a fundamental problem. 

Politicians should spend a few days with local police officers and view your communities through their eyes. Many of the people you count on for votes live in fear of the mini-terrorists in these neighborhoods every day.

Then, create enough jail space to accommodate all these scofflaws for the full term of their punishment. And, require them to engage in productive work while incarcerated.

Of course, some politicians worry more about the rights of criminals than about the impact of criminal activity on innocent people who are just trying to live their lives.

So, maybe the best bet for liberal politicians is just to allow the innocent to live in fear while you satisfy yourselves that criminals are comfy in their roomy cells.

— Ron Fink, a Lompoc resident since 1975, is retired from the aerospace industry and has been active with Lompoc municipal government commissions and committee since 1992, including 12 years on the Lompoc Planning Commission. He is also a voting member of the Santa Barbara County Taxpayers Association. Contact him at [email protected]. Click here to read previous columns. The opinions expressed are his own.

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