Fairfield may be new ‘Dodge City’

Politicians, police officers and professional bowlers have long debated the cause of Fairfield’s growing crime problem.

As everyone knows, there was no serious crime in Fairfield 25 or so years ago. Former City Manager B. Gale Wilson said so and he shoulda known, right?

There were no drugs and no gangs, just the occasional pair of energetic high school girls vigorously slapping each other silly in front of the roller rink….

When drugs and gangs finally did rear their ugly heads, they were promptly labeled a regional problem. Thugs from places like Lafayette and Hillsborough, police told fearful Fairfidlians, were behind it all. There was no telling when a cocaine-crazed investment banker from Point Reyes would roar into Fairfield and wreak havoc on the otherwise peaceful beer-brewing community. And that, of course, couldn’t really be thought of as a local problem.

People in Fairfield, though, eventually began asking themselves if there might actually be some local source for the criminal activity that seemed to be sweeping the community.

Supervisor-elect Jim Spering recently suggested that the city’s regional shopping mall might be the locus of such activity. Others have blamed an unexpected influx of godless liberals with funny hats for the flood of Fairfield felonies.

Last month, however, the Fairfield Police Department uncovered the awful truth: Gun-wielding automobiles were riding the crest of the community’s latest crime wave.

I’m sure this isn’t the kind of news that Fairfield’s leaders want widely disseminated, but police let the cat out of the bag with a seemingly mundane press release about a drive-by shooting.

According to police, a Fairfield resident was sitting on his car near his apartment one night when he was shot in the foot:”The resident said a late model Dodge Intrepid drove by and, without warning, began firing a handgun at him.”

Our police reporter¬†took one look at the press release and gasped.”This is bad – really bad. Maybe worse…” she muttered, shaking her head and reaching for her bulletproof vest.

Indeed. Everybody knows guns don’t shoot people – Dodge Intrepids with guns shoot people.

We really should have figured this out a long time ago.

Think about it – where do most drive-by shootings occur? On streets and in parking lots.

Where do most Dodge Intrepids hang out? On streets and in parking lots.

This also explains why so many drive-by shooters in Fairfield seem to simply vanish. If you’re a Dodge Intrepid, all you have to do is crank off a few rounds, toss the gun and then pull to the curb. Now you’re just another parked car.

Devilishly clever.

In the news business, we refer to one such incident as a “trend.” Two indicate a “growing threat.” We call three such events an “epidemic.”

We can only hope Fairfield hasn’t discovered this startling trend too late…

Originally published August 27, 2006

Crime: It’s a full-time job

Want to really, really complicate your life?

Go do some crimes. ¬†And don’t let an arrest – or two, or three – get in your way.

Each day as I wander wide-eyed through the dimly lit corridors of the Solano County Hall of Justice, I encounter dozens of home-grown career criminals who steadfastly refuse to give in to societal pressures and abandon their arduous paths through the California judicial system.

I should, perhaps, explain that the popular concept of “career criminal” doesn’t exactly fit with what one finds here in S’lano County, where men are men and women know their Miranda rights by heart.

When the average citizen thinks “career criminal” they imagine a slick holdup man with a string of daring bank robberies under his belt, or perhaps a wily international arms smuggler hustling automatic weapons between Rotterdam and Redondo Beach.

In S’lano County, “career criminal” usually means a guy who has a few drinks for breakfast, writes a bad check for his rent, punches out his landlord and then drives woozily down to the corner convenience market to attempt an armed robbery while brandishing a bent golf club.

And that’s, like, just one day.

Monday, for instance.

On Tuesday, our career criminal might decide to vary his routine by cooking some methamphetamines, appropriating the mag wheels off someone else’s rusty 1988 Impala and then trying to sell them to an off-duty police sergeant while parked in front of – or on top of – a fire hydrant.

I know at first glance this might seem somewhat exaggerated, but the fact is, there are plenty of hard-working desperadoes down at the old Hall of Justice who are at least this busy on a daily basis.

It’s not unusual for one individual to trundle into Superior Court trailing a half-dozen different criminal cases in various stages of adjudication.

We’re not talking about part-timers here, amigos.

This kind of career requires hard work and dedication – plus the ability to get caught each and every time you decide to shoplift a six-pack from Elmo’s Liquor Emporium or siphon gas from an unmarked police car.

Not long ago, I ran across an enterprising defendant (name withheld to avoid embarrassment) who was in court for hit-and-run driving on one case, forgery on another, welfare fraud on a third, assault with a deadly weapon on yet another, possession of methamphetamines on a fifth and battery on another.

About the only thing we’re missing here is piracy on the high seas, and I’m sure that’s just a matter of time.

(Arrrrrr, matey…)

With an arraignment here, a plea there and the occasional jury trial, these frequent flier felons no longer have mere court appearances, they have careers. This is eight-hours-a-day stuff.

Originally published July 6, 2003