Looking down the barrel
Shootings on the central-city grid go overlooked—as do smaller crimes plaguing the Midtown-downtown area
With lights blazing and sirens screaming, a police vehicle shot westward down P Street last Wednesday evening, leaving behind a smoky trail of burnt-rubber fumes. Minutes later, another cop car with a similar urgency sped southbound on 18th Street. And then, soon enough, a whirlybird appeared in the night sky, its helicopter blades snapping through the cold air as it shone a spotlight on the scene of a shooting near S and 15th streets.
The incident that occurred in front of long-standing dive bar the Monte Carlo last week comes on the heels of two other recent shootings on the grid, and another high-profile shooting and killing this past August near the AM-PM mini-mart on the 2800 block of J Street. This is not to mention a recent New York Times story, which reported that citywide Sacramento gun incidents are up 48 percent this year.
That’s a lot of talk about firearms. And it has many central-city dwellers asking, “Is the city safe?”
Television news, blogs and The Sacramento Bee all extensively covered last Wednesday’s shooting: A patrol sergeant heard gunshots near the Monte Carlo, near the S and 14th intersection, just before 9 p.m. People fled the scene, and quickly the neighborhoods adjacent to the bar, as well as parts of T and 17th streets, were cordoned off with police tape. A search for the suspect, who’d fled the scene in a car before resorting to foot, went on for hours. Meanwhile, a victim in his 30s lay dead on the sidewalk back at the scene of the crime.
Last month’s other two gun incidents didn’t end in fatalities and, perhaps because of this, didn’t garner the media attention seen around last week’s homicide. At the same time, this also means a lot of central-city residents don’t know what’s going on in their own backyard.
The first of the shootings, near P and 20th streets, took place early Sunday morning on October 7, when officers received reports of subjects firing at each other. When police arrived, they discovered a victim with a non-life-threatening bullet wound.
The city of Sacramento crime log details that a “verbal confrontation occurred between the victim of the shooting and the other subjects” just after midnight. This back-and-forth escalated into a brief gunfight. Police were able to locate a weapon on the scene, and the victim was arrested for assault while the other suspects remain at large.
Another shooting also went down last month on October 18, near 12th and K streets, just before 2 a.m. Officers near the scene heard shots fired and “were able to locate the person believed to have had just fired the gun,” according to the report. There were no victims, and police were able to apprehend and arrest the suspect, who they found trying to discard the weapon.
That’s three shootings in the grid in just over a month: Are these shooting just a blip, or is this the new normal?
Sacramento police spokeswoman Michele Gigante explained to SN&R that the department is reticent to comment on trends. She did explain that there is some confusion surrounding The New York Times story, because the 48 percent number included all “gun crimes” or incidents involving a firearm, not just actual shootings.
She also reminded that city police has 19 percent fewer in sworn officers than in the 2008-09 budget year, in addition to 206 fewer civilian employees and a 31 percent reduction in overall budget.
City police is still able to update a “crime blotter,” or crime log, daily online (view it at www.sacpd.org/dailyactivity). SN&R pored over this log recently and also investigated the city’s Crime Reports mapping application—which illustrates where and when certain incidents take place in the central city—to establish a quick snapshot of what types of crimes plague the Midtown-downtown area.
And, of course, it turns out that shootings, while disconcerting, are fewer and further between than the usual mix of bike thefts, drunk arrests, purse snatchings and robberies, home invasions, narcotics busts, and even the occasional assault. Data over the past four months didn’t reveal any ebb-and-flow when it comes to the aforementioned incidents.
But, as it has been reported in these pages before, likely the biggest central-city nuisance is, interestingly, bike theft. There’s an odd correlation between two wheels and criminality (see “Pedaling drugs” by Raheem F Hosseini, SN&R Frontlines, June 21, for more on the connection between bikes and meth), and reported incidents involving bicycles over the past month seem to occur more often than any other.
One of the more more eye-catching events reaffirms city police’s advice to not be a vigilante when it comes to recovering a stolen ride. On October 2, near 12th and E streets, a guy witnessed someone cruising on his stolen bike. The victim approached the suspect and a “physical altercation” ensued, according to the report.
Soon, a “second suspect also got involved in the altercation and they overpowered/physically assaulted the victim,” the crime log stated. The duo pummeled the victim, the suspects then fled—and the victim never recovered his bike.
Nightmare stories about bike thefts are common in the central city, at a much higher clip than gun disturbances. There were nearly two dozen related bike incidents over the past month, according to the crime log.
“We noticed that there was an uptick” in bike-related crime, Gigante told SN&R.
So, while gun crime is up, it’s quality-of-life crimes that plague residents most.