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

Inner city crime vs. outer limits crime

Over the years I’ve found that newspaper readers are fiercely loyal to their hometown paper’s daily (or weekly) chronicles of crime as published in the traditional “Police Reports” column.

People in Marin County will tell you that the Point Reyes Light has the best police reports in the whole world and will back up their claim with tales of cursing, topless women on horseback and rowdy landscape painters run amok.

Residents of rustic Magalia will disagree, arguing that the Paradise Post carries not only reports of tree-climbing gunmen in dog suits but of unlawful goat gatherings.

And readers of the Arcata Eye, citing the newspaper’s police report column, will proudly point out that there are no drunks in town, just the beverage-challenged.

Former Fairfield traffic safety consultant Marjorie King, who now resides about eight miles northeast of everywhere, recently nominated the Siskiyou Daily News in Yreka for outstanding police reporting in its “Public Records” column.

She sent along a copy of the paper’s April 16 issue to back up her claim and, I have to admit, the Siskiyou Daily News has it all.

For example:

“Officer made contact with subjects about report last week of possible turkey poachers. Subjects say they are making a movie. Reporting party notified.”

This is, unfortunately, a common problem. Ever since Hollywood producers began shooting movies on location in isolated rural communities, filmmakers have been mistaken for turkey poachers. The late Alfred Hitchcock had a particularly difficult time shooting “The Birds” in Bodega because of this misconception, despite the fact that he was working primarily with seagulls and crows. Oldtimers recall that every time the famed director was about to finish a crucial shot for the 1963 thriller, the county turkey wardens would show up shouting, “Reach for the skies, mis-cre-ants!”

And suspected turkey poachers are only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to Yreka-area crime news. The paper also chronicled “Mules reported to be in the city yard on North Main Street. Animals secured in parking lot and owner notified.”

Sounds fairly routine, but unescorted mules can be a significant problem wherever they turn up. Give ’em an inch and they’ll take Main Street. And with all that braying, kicking and spitting they’re almost as bad as Oakland Raiders’ fans.

Besides mule control, Yreka police are called upon to provide emergency dental advice, as evidenced by:

“Eighteen-year-old male reports being struck in the face and suffering a chipped tooth. Wants to know what he can do to repair the tooth.”

Gold crown? Porcelain cap? Knock the whole damned thing out and start over? Decisions, decisions…

Amid all the suspected turkey poachers, misguided mules and wayward dental patients, though, is the one malefactor that strikes fear into the hearts of law enforcement officials everywhere: juvenile female.

As encountered in Yreka:

“Juvenile female reported to be in restroom at Rite Aid. Subject opened a bottle of hair dye and poured it in her hair and wrote graffiti in the restroom with lipstick. Last seen running from business…”

Thanks, Marjorie – community police reporting doesn’t get much better than this.

Originally published June 8, 2002