The City of San Bernardino has problems. The city, despite having exited bankruptcy, remains broke. The police department is undermanned and underfunded. Increased pension obligations to CalPERS threatens to consume any additional revenue to the department and the city.
San Bernardino has more than 30 illegally operating pot shops in town, many of them with ties to gangs or organized crime. The murder rate continues at a near-record pace. Property crimes are through the roof. San Bernardino’s middle class is abandoning it for safer cities with better schools as the city’s demographics become poorer.
So, it is not a wonder as to why the Mayor and other elected officials reached out for help last month to the federal government in a letter to President Trump. It only makes sense that when faced with an insurmountable crime problem beyond the capabilities of local government that San Bernardino should request help and cooperation from those agencies.
This is not new ground. In 1994, San Bernardino was plagued with gang crime as Los Angeles gangs followed the migration of welfare recipients to our region. The city requested and received county, state and federal law enforcement assistance in what was called Operation Safe Streets. San Bernardino Police coordinated with the Sheriff’s Department, California Highway Patrol, and the Federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) to crack down on crime in the city.
And it worked.
In the last 20 years, San Bernardino’s crime rate is again spiking, helped along by middle class flight, rampant unemployment, and increased poverty, combined with newer problems of illegal immigration and unregulated marijuana shops.
San Bernardino’s crime problem is no longer just a failure of local government. The refusal of the Federal Government to enforce immigration and drug laws under President Obama has been disastrous for San Bernardino.
While California has legalized both medicinal and recreational marijuana use, it still remains a federal schedule 1 drug. Unlicensed pot shops have sprung up in neighborhoods throughout the city and unfortunately, they have become indicative of criminal activity. Whether they are the cause of increased crime, or simply attract those elements is not relevant, the corresponding increase of crime in those areas is not debatable. Having a weak-kneed city attorney hamper any code enforcement activities on these unlicensed businesses hasn’t helped either.
Unchecked immigration both legal and illegal also has contributed to increased crime activity in the community, as well as placed unprecedented pressure on San Bernardino schools. San Bernardino’s education performance is hampered when 27 percent of students are English learners and over 90 percent of students are on free school lunch programs.
San Bernardino undoubtedly needs help. Asking for that help is a sign of maturity by the Mayor and other elected officials. San Bernardino’s crime and social problems will not be solved by social justice warriors and their failed programs. It tried that under former Mayor Pat Morris. San Bernardino needs to get tough, “buck up,” and embrace regional and federal involvement of a broad range of law enforcement agencies including ATF, Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), FBI, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), and the Justice Department, as well as local Sheriff and CHP departments.
San Bernardino leaders shouldn’t expect this effort to be a half-measure. When and if these agencies agree to come to the table and expend resources, there will be no kid gloves and elected and community officials will have to embrace the scrutiny this effort will bring from left-wing media and social interests from both inside and outside the city.
While these efforts will be completely lawful and necessary, the screams from the “peanut gallery” will likely be loud and threats of political retaliation will be numerous. This will require greater intestinal fortitude than previous city leaders have been able to muster, but in the long run, it is the only way to save San Bernardino.
When can we start?