The safety factor

Public safety is still an issue, but enough with the fear-mongering

The Chico Chamber of Commerce deserves credit for developing a five-point “Community Vision” for the city’s future over the next 10 years, as presented to the City Council on Aug. 4.

We don’t necessarily disagree with the report’s finding that the No. 1 goal is improving public safety. But in their effort to prove that Chico is less safe than ever, chamber President and CEO Katie Simmons and board Chairman Mark Francis relied on a single, rather shaky, data point: the FBI’s ranking of Chico in the bottom third of California cities in terms of crime rate.

There’s been a pervasive sense that “the experience of living and doing business in Chico has changed,” and not for the better, Simmons told the council. “It’s the No. 1 issue of our membership…,” Francis added. “And the fact is … it’s getting worse.”

The FBI stats are dubious, however. They rely on the cities’ reports, and no two cities report crimes in the same way. Also, at a time when many police departments are understaffed, many crimes go unreported. In fact, the better a police force is at reporting crimes, the worse the city’s crime rate.

It used to be that Chicoans saw their community as a special place with friendly people who were actively involved in making it better. For several years now, however, there has been a growing emphasis on crime that has fed the perception that Chico isn’t safe.

Fortunately, the rest of the vision plan focuses on positive goals: fiscal solvency at City Hall; retaining anchor businesses; maintaining “vibrant public spaces”; and “creating premier facilities and community amenities.” Can’t argue with that. And the recently released annual report from Team Chico, of which the chamber is a member, highlights the many positive economic developments in the city. Good work there, too.

We notice that the Chico Police Officers’ Association has stopped beating the safety drum since it signed its contract with the city. The rest of us should follow its example. Enough with the fear-mongering. Spread the word (again): Chico is a great place to live.