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Mayor’s crime panel finds pockets of despair in Fairfield

FAIRFIELD — Fairfield has neighborhood “pockets of despair” – and most juvenile and adult offenders were raised by single mothers, says the Mayor’s Commission on Crime report, which calls for measures that include reviving once-vigorous summer sports programs in the city.

Almost every incarcerated person the commission spoke with came from a home “without a strong male,” said Jack Batson, chairman of the commission. Offenders who grew up in two-parent families are rare, Batson said.

He also spoke about how “waves of violence” in the city represent retaliations that follow a single incident.

“It’s all part of one shooting,” Batson said Thursday.

Batson, 71, served on the Fairfield City Council from 1999 to 2007 and taught at Armijo High School for more than three decades.

The report, which the Fairfield City Council takes up Tuesday, states that while the public may perceive rampant crime in Fairfield, statistics show the city is more like many other American communities of 100,000 residents.

“The commission was impressed with the comprehensive approach to crime fighting employed by the police,” states the report that praised the department’s “forward thinking.”

“The city will never have the fiscal resources necessary for an all-out war on crime,” adds the document.

Moreover, some factors are beyond Fairfield’s control, including its location next to a busy interstate near large Bay Area cities with significant crime. Two state prisons are also nearby and state realignment releases prison inmates into county jails and onto the streets, the report adds.

Mayor Harry Price said strengthening families involves sociological changes that require a concerted effort.

“That’s where the faith community comes in,” he said.

Price noted the report praised the success of the nonprofit The Leaven, Police Activities League, Public Safety Academy in Fairfield and the mentoring by police who serve as school resource officers.

Fairfield in its effort to combat crime cannot afford to take away one more dollar from prevention, intervention and enforcement, the report states.

Councilwoman Catherine Moy concurs.

“I warned that crime would increase in 2010, when I was the only council member to vote no on laying off police officers,” she said Thursday.

“The report shows that the city’s police force after those layoffs was at an all-time low of 115,” she said. “We still have not recovered, and we’re fighting our way out of a hole, as the report states.”

The commission said it discovered an important deficiency – juveniles and adults released from lockup here have virtually no programs to help them successfully re-enter civic life. Most want to escape their previous lifestyles but get no help in acquiring life skills, according to the report.

Solano County is not an easy place to be incarcerated, Batson said, referring to the reaction of offenders to that notion.

“They hoot and holler that one down,” he said.

Batson, noting the recommendation to revise summers sports for youths in crime-prone neighborhoods, said, “Fairfield used to be a big baseball town.”

Mayor Price said he hopes the five graduates of Fairfield area high schools who now play in the National Football League will inspire others.

“Those athletes can be very effective role models,” he said.

The report also notes that the Fairfield-Suisun School District lost about $33 million during the recession and that the commission is impressed with the school district’s effort to support programs that help at-risk children.

Fairfield-Suisun, the report added, like all school districts in California, has no major anti-drug program.

“This omission is startling,” the document states.

By Ryan McCarthy / Daily Republic
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