Pay attention to south Sac

Henry Harry is a community activist and former Sacramento County sheriff’s deputy

There’s an ongoing crime crisis in south Sacramento. This year has seen more needless deaths. Most recently, a shoot-out in a south Sacramento park left five people wounded.

We should all pay close attention to what happens in south Sacramento. A lack of security on those streets, in addition to the grief and harm it brings directly to that neighborhood, has potential to boil over and further divide our city.

For four years, I was a deputy sheriff assigned to patrol south Sacramento. In 2003, I broke rank and tradition by publicly warning the sheriff and county supervisors that they needed to implement a five-year strategy to deal with what is clearly a crisis.

No plan was implemented, and grieving families and victims continue to suffer the consequences of that blatant failure. My heart breaks with the knowledge that more concerned and skillful leaders would have made efforts to protect our youth, who are most at risk to be murdered.

It’s easy to blame rising crime on lost social values, rudderless youth and citizens unwilling to come forward as witnesses to crime. These are factors, but anyone, including the sheriff, who points solely to such factors is passing the buck. Bear in mind, the sheriff’s department has been warned about growing crime. But the sheriff’s department’s failure for years to engage criminals has contributed to that crime.

Sheriff John McGinnis doesn’t talk about how the sheriff’s department saved a lot of money by keeping an additional 14 deputy positions vacant, then used the money for information technology costs. The price for that “savings” is being paid by south Sacramento crime victims. With all of this crime, McGinness doesn’t talk about how deputies continue to be moved away from county service to work under contract for other agencies.

So where is the sheriff’s leadership taking us? What are the long-term strategies to deal with the violence? Does the sheriff support gang injunctions? Should some areas be allowed to raise money to pay for additional deputies?

Politics aside, there are a lot of important questions Sheriff McGinness, not a spokesman, must answer regularly and in public. Crime victims, families and sheriff’s deputies deserve nothing less.