Foothill Technology High School

Ventura Police Department works to lower city’s high crime rate

People are surrounded by crime everyday, no matter the place. No one is safe, but some people can be better prepared for incidents than others.

The city of Ventura has 38.1 Part 1 crimes per 1,000 residents, giving Ventura the highest crime rate compared to other cities in Ventura County.

According to Unified Crime Reporting (UCR), Part 1 crimes include murder, non-negligent homicide, forcible rape, robbery, aggravated assault, burglary, motor vehicle theft, larceny-theft, and arson.

Furthermore, Detective Gil Pusen stated that Ventura is ranked second in the county for gang population with about 1,100 gang members.

The greatest causes of crime in Ventura, while unknown, can be pondered by many of its residents.

Math teacher Rick Villano believes the highest cause of crime are drug addicts “breaking in, and doing petty thefts to support their drug habits.”

Additionally, Villano recently experienced someone attempting theft on his neighbor’s car.

“We had police and fire [departments] and [an] ambulance all there at about 5:30 this morning, taking him away, and it’s not the first time that’s happened,” Villano said.

Credit: Tyler Herzog/The Foothill Dragon Press
Credit: Tyler Herzog/The Foothill Dragon Press

Living in East Ventura, Villano sees a moderate amount of crime. But compared to neighboring cities, he finds Ventura a relatively safe place.

Contrary to Villano, Spanish teacher Josiah Guzik finds society as a whole to blame.

“I don’t think that one demographic is responsible for all the crime or for even most of it. Blaming one group of people for it, I think that as a society we’ve all failed if there are people who are not fitting in, a certain way, so they feel like they have to resort to crime,” Guzik said.

“I wouldn’t feel comfortable blaming or identifying a specific group as the most responsible,” Guzik concluded.

Sophomore Peter Jespersen agrees with Guzik and doesn’t “believe it’s constrained to one demographic.”

Jespersen feels that Ventura as a whole is not very hazardous. “I can go walk down to the park at night and I wouldn’t think it’s very dangerous,” he said.

While Ventura’s crime is relatively high, the Ventura Police Department (VPD) has taken some steps towards lowering it.

Credit: Tyler Herzog/The Foothill Dragon Press
Credit: Tyler Herzog/The Foothill Dragon Press

In 2014, the VPD began randomized controlled trials involving body-worn cameras. After a year of use, the VPD has seen a decrease in use of force and complaints because the citizens had knowledge of being videotaped.

Due to its success, the Ventura City Council approved to fund the full deployment of body-worn cameras and started funding use in the summer of 2015.

In addition to body cameras, recently the VPD has started using social media as another way to capture criminals.

“If we’re looking for somebody that we can’t identify through any of our resources, then a lot of the time we will use social media to put out images of the person we suspect to be involved in criminal activity. A lot of times, that way we get anonymous tips of who the person is,” said Gang Investigator, Detective Gil Pusen.

Pusen explained one of the most recent incidents.

 

 

To maintain the welfare of the city, the VPD tries to reach out to the community to get involved.

Partnered with NextDoor, the VPD has established a virtual neighborhood watch for Ventura residents. It is a free private social network for neighborhoods. By joining, residents get updates on crime locally and can help contribute by aiding their neighbors with information on a nearby crime.

The VPD also started a program to raise awareness for Driving Under the Influence (DUI). They travel to schools and local events escorting a transparent trailer containing a crashed car.

By telling the story of the owner, the VPD hopes to lower the amount of DUIs that occur in Ventura and raise awareness of the consequences.

 

 

Additionally, Pusen believes the community could get involved by “reporting things and following through as witnesses in court.”

“It’s probably one of our biggest challenges, especially with gang cases, a lot of people don’t want to get involved. They kind of hope somebody else is going to report it,” Pusen said.

–Tyler Herzog

Featured Photo Credit: Tyler Herzog/The Foothill Dragon Press

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