by City Council Member Christy Weir
The recent killing of Anthony Mele was a tragic event that has left many of us struggling to find ways to more effectively prevent acts of violence. We have heard ideas from residents by email, social media and at City Council meetings. Our community has expressed their sadness and anger through marches, radio and online, and shown support for the Mele family with fundraisers and heartfelt expressions of sympathy.
Ventura is a community that cares, and comes together to problem-solve. Our Police Department works hard every day to make our City safe and is committed to stepping up patrols and enforcement to diminish vagrancy-related crimes. Additional Police officers have been hired and more will soon be joining the force. Our downtown Ambassador program will be expanding to include other impacted areas. There are many contributing factors that we need to be examining— two methadone clinics, ineffective treatment for mental illness, inmates being released from jail in Ventura, state laws that have negatively impacted criminal sentencing, huge encampments in our river bottoms and panhandling.
The public can help us in several ways: volunteer for clean-up and other community improvement projects, report suspicious or threatening behavior and do not give money to panhandlers. A leader of a local non-profit once told us that each dollar given to a panhandler is like another nail in their coffin. That sounds dramatic, but he explained that when people are receiving cash to feed their harmful habits, they are less motivated to accept help for their addictions. That cash can also be a contributor to drug-related crimes. Please donate to service agencies that can provide lasting care that saves lives.
Families must feel safe in their neighborhoods and in our parks and beachfront areas. Crime and threatening behavior in our public spaces cannot be tolerated. I look forward to partnering with our residents, businesses, service organizations and City and County government to ensure a safe and clean Ventura.