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Op-Ed: Police Chief Puts Novato Crime in Perspective

Overall, violent crime is lower now than it was 20 years ago.

Whenever initiating a dialogue about crime in any community, there is always the risk of creating an atmosphere of fear and uncertainty. The purpose of the discussion, however, should be to dispel misperceptions, calm fears, provide factual information that focuses on reality and solicit input that will assist in developing strategies to reduce crime and address the fear and uncertainty related to crime.

No community is crime-free and no community has all of the necessary resources that it takes to combat crimes and the causation factors related to criminal activity.  It takes the collaborative resources of our governmental agencies and the cooperation of our residents to effectively manage public safety concerns. We are fortunate to live in a community where we have hundreds of volunteers who donate their time and energy in an effort to improve the quality of life in our city.  We are also fortunate to have residents who have a very low tolerance for criminal activity.

Overall, reported crimes in Novato were reduced 10 percent in 2010 as compared to reported crimes in 2009. In 2009, there were a total of 4615 reported crimes and in 2010, there were a total of 4,123 reported crimes (felonies and misdemeanors combined). In fact, both property and violent crimes are lower today than they were 20 years ago as reported in the Department of Justice Uniform Crime report.

We documented and investigated a total of 99 violent crimes in 2010. This compares to 144 violent crimes reported in 1991.  This is good news, but we still have much work to do. 

The reality is that we live in a very safe community. Our crime statistics continue to show that we are a very safe community as compared to our neighbors in San Rafael and Petaluma.  These statistics further demonstrate that we have a lower crime rate per capita for both property crimes and violent crimes when compared to cities such as Walnut Creek and Beverly Hills.  The harsh reality, however, is that we still experience a variety of criminal activity and we have continuing public safety challenges every day. As a community, we must remain vigilant in providing a safe and secure environment for our residents, our businesses and everyone who visits our beautiful city.

When we recently initiated a community discussion about gang activity, it was our hope to educate the public about a disturbing crime trend and reassure the community that our city government and our public safety agencies have and continue to seek ongoing solutions to very complex problems.  We have outlined past strategies and we will detail

future goals and objectives to address this issue.  We are working to restore services that have been eliminated by budget reductions and we will continue to focus on comprehensive strategies that include public awareness and involvement as well as education, prevention, intervention and enforcement. In a collaborative effort involving Marin County educators and law enforcement agencies including probation and the district attorney’s office, we recently held a gang awareness and identification workshop at the Marin County Office of Education. The next training session is scheduled for March 10 at the Novato Unified School District.

We recently redoubled our efforts to combat graffiti (especially gang-related graffiti) and we welcome the response that we have received from many citizen volunteers who have stepped forward to offer their time and commitment to assist us in eliminating this senseless vandalism and blight in our community.

We remain committed to our primary mission of providing the professional delivery of quality law enforcement services to our community.  Although we continue to cope with ongoing economic difficulties, our staff will continue to seek creative opportunities to increase efficiencies and enhance services. We encourage our citizens to become engaged, and we ask that you seek to increase your awareness of criminal activities in our communities and to join us in developing solutions that will help us reduce crime and improve public safety.

— Joseph Kreins, Chief of Police

janna nikkola February 28, 2011 at 10:32 PM
I think Chief Kreins commended for continuing to keep Novato a very safe city in which to live, despite budget cuts and being required to cut back on the number of police officers. When I first moved to Novato from San Francisco in 1971, I yearned to live in a small town where it was safe to walk around at night and where I wouldn't need five locks on my door, and I found all that in Novato. At the time, people told me Novato was such a safe place to live was that so many San Francisco police officers and fire fighters lived in Novato because of the affordable housing.
Annan Paterson March 01, 2011 at 02:01 AM
The community of Novato has a proud tradition of neighbor helping neighbor and welcoming newcomers like myself and my family in 1995. In addition, the Novato Police Department has done an outstanding job of community policing in recent years- reaching out to all sectors of our community to make sure every member of our town feels included and protected. In fact, Novato and our police department were featured in the documentary "Not In Our Town". See http://www.pbs.org/niot/about/niot2.html. No place is without challenges. When problems arise, we deal with it as a community.
Jen March 01, 2011 at 05:00 PM
Mr. Ghigliotti, Please help me understand... What drives you to still live in Novato when you seem to find so much fault with it? No city is 100% safe from crime, destruction of property or just plain stupid people doing stupid things. I grew up in a part of the East Bay that our local police referred to as "Sleepy Hollow" because nothing ever happened there. Yet in the mid 80's, my 17 year old sister was forced into a man's truck holding a knife to her side. Thank God, she got away from her attacker, but since then, I have never thought that ANY place is perfect, nor 100% without the possibility of danger. Yes, we invoke change when we get involved, but sitting on the sidelines endlessly making snide comments is an attempt to undermine what we DO have in this great town. With all due respect sir, if you don't like what you see --move.
Jerome J Ghigliotti Jr March 01, 2011 at 05:29 PM
Thank you for asking. I came to Novato in 1971, and found a community that was ideal. I could not have asked for anything more. I travel widely, and see many, many communities. About two months ago, I started writing a book entitled, "The Fall of the American Empire". I believe that the current direction of Novato is typical of much of the United States. This country and this way of life is changing so radically, that I have a clear and present fear that it will devolve into a Juarez, or Somolia within my lifetime. My parental upbringing instilled in me a responsibility to leave anything that I touch a better place than when I arrived. I live by the 1960s mantra that if you are not part of the solution, then you are part of the problem. 2 1/2 years ago I saw the problem and dedicated my life to insuring that the 235 year American ideal shall not perish from this Earth. At 62 years old, I am amazed that the people living in Novato cannot see the imminent demise of that American way of life just because they cannot conceive of the problems that slap them in the face every day. Gang graffiti is, literally, the writing on the wall. I condemned the members of the city council that their refusal to see this decline will not be recognized until it is one of their children or grandchildren who is raped or murdered. I do not wish for that to happen, but neither they nor you will wake until that happens. I will not let that happen so long as I am alive.
Jerome J Ghigliotti Jr March 01, 2011 at 06:34 PM
With due respect, if everyone moved when they did not like what was going on the human race would have been extinct long ago. No, I do not just sit by the sidelines making snide remarks. I have worked for 2 1/2 years following every law, every notice requirement, every publishing requirement to bring the Novato Initiative for Legal Employment and Contracting to the ballot. 3,625 registered Novato voters signed the petition. The purpose of that ballot initiative was to insure that Novato contracting jobs went to unemployed American citizens and to insure that Novato tax dollars were not spent to pay illegal wages. Your MF city council BROKE the law by refusing to place that fully qualified initiative on the ballot. I am not a rich man, but the council told me that if I wanted for them to obey the law, that I would have to sue them. The Novato City Council, personally, has established Novato as a sanctuary city inviting illegal alien criminals to "Vive, Trabaja, y Vende las drugas aqui". 2 1/2 years ago I raised red gflags about increasing illegal alien crime. The Council did nothing. The USDOJ has reported to me that ICE arrests of returning illegal aliens previously arrested, convicted, and deported has tripled from 2009 to 2010, from 700/mo to 2,300/mo. In August 2010, I predicted murder on the streets. On 1-3-11 we had 2 illegal alien attempted murders at Safeway. What have you done lately to make Novato a better place to live? Please, help paint out graffiti
Renee March 01, 2011 at 06:49 PM
Jen, very well said!! remember sometimes with small town you get small minds :(
Samira Sharif March 01, 2011 at 07:58 PM
I would really like to know how exactly the Novato Police is working to restore services that have been eliminated? If the Chief of Police was not willing to take half an hour of their time to listen to a first-hand business affected by gang activity and graffiti-related tagging, the above article doesn't put Novato's crime into any kind of perspective. I would like to know how exactly services are being restored in our community if so? As an educator, child's advocate and leader of an education organization providing family services and free education to under-served children and their communities, I made numerous attempts to try and voice my concerns in this area. In sharing my personal/business story and asking for the partnership support of Local Law Enforcement agencies and Novato Public Schools, I received no inclination that there was an interest in any of these matters. Here I was hoping to get an open invitation in forming strong alliances that would raise public awareness, and educate families about crime factors and the culture within gangs. Even a few words of encouragement and appreciations would have gone long ways in addressing some of my concerns and issues involving children at-risk. What strategies are being used other than task-forces and racial profiling- a quick fix breeding criminals instead of getting to the root of the cause. What measures have been taken to prevent gang-related activity and the wide-spreading of it's culture? I would like examples.
Jerome J Ghigliotti Jr March 01, 2011 at 11:05 PM
Thank you for joining the outrage. Kreins and Frank have lied to you, again and again. In their 1-5-11 everything-is-okay-on-the-Titanic letter they described Caucasian "motorcycle gangs" as being part of the problem. Upon a Government Records demand, the City has admitted that from 1-1-10 to present, as to motorcycle gangs, "A search of our records produced nothing that was responsive to your request." There are Mexican and Salvadoran illegal alien gangs in Novato now, including two new ones within the past month, West Side Wynos and 14th Street. Soon we will have Columbian and Saudi illegal alien gangs. If Monday a man with a red hat and lime green jacket robs a bank on Grant. Tuesday, a man with red hat and lime green jacket robs another bank on Grant. Wednesday, a man with red hat and lime green jacket walks into my bank, I am pushing the burglar alarm before he points a gun in my face. Profiling uses past experiences to predict future crimes. Only political correctness makes it "racial". The problem, at its basis, is illegal aliens. They ARE criminals because they broke the law just being here. How many more laws do they have to break in order for us to put away the welcome mat? Refusal to enact an E-Verify ordinance to prevent local businesses from hiring new illegal aliens guarantees a job for every illegal alien and his cousins and everyone who hides under the same cover of just being a nice person trying to improve his life. Demand law enforcement.
SamS March 02, 2011 at 12:40 AM
Jen- You are my hero!!! I could not have said it better myself. I and so sick and tired of hearing Jerome rant and rave about how horrible this city is. The crime in the city went down - as the population went up. That is a good thing and that is GOOD NEWS and GOOD for the City. How dare you folks continue to find the negative in everything that happens in Novato. Jen is right, if you dont like it that much - then take a hike and get out.
Renee March 02, 2011 at 01:46 AM
well Said Sam and Jen!!!!! :)
Jen March 02, 2011 at 04:17 AM
I appreciate it my fellow Novatoians ;)
Jen March 02, 2011 at 04:18 AM
Mr. Ghigliotti, thank you for your response. I respect what seems to be your deep convictions towards our great city. At the same time, I also have to say that many forms of media, coupled with the more vocal naysayers who jump on the negative media bandwagon, can be reprehensibly one-sided when it comes to serving up and shoving alarmist findings down our throats. Not only can it be somewhat redundant to those who have even the slightest clue to our surroundings, it does such a disservice to the doomsayer's plea --we really aren't interested in being FORCED to listen. As for the responsible ones, we know what the deal is and how things affect us, so no one really needs to run down the street claiming the sky is falling and then drag people through the mud to accomplish this. Oh to be clear, I'm not fond of criminals either, but I do know this: Believe it or not, every single life staining tragedy my family and close friends have encountered (including the filth that attempted to kidnap my sister) was at the hands of an American. I personally fear impoverished living conditions for my fellow humans, poor parenting and poor judgement are our downfall, not the presence of illegal aliens. Aiming the big guns at one element is never the answer. BTW, what am I doing to make Novato a better place? I'm a teacher.
Jerome J Ghigliotti Jr March 02, 2011 at 05:46 AM
Jen, as a parent and teacher, you are one of the most important members of the community. Thank you.
Jen March 02, 2011 at 03:18 PM
It's my pleasure. Regards-
Jerome J Ghigliotti Jr March 02, 2011 at 06:06 PM
I respect your choice. What will it take for those who remain to see the graffiti on the wall?
Anne March 02, 2011 at 09:27 PM
I moved to Novato 3 years ago and I am so thankful that Jerome Ghigliotti lives here and fights for Novato. These are very scary times and I believe it will be a long and painful recovery and we need residents to pay attention and get involved. Bravo Jerome Ghigliotti!!!!
Jerome J Ghigliotti Jr March 03, 2011 at 06:02 AM
Will, Anne, Thanks for the support. Now all we need is the other 53,800 Novato citizens to wake up. Wednesday, gunfire on the streets of San Francisco, 24th and Harrison. These are the same gangs that are in Novato.
Mrs. C March 03, 2011 at 02:53 PM
Jerome, I too am appalled that our City Council has ignored the will of the people who signed the CLEC petition. I took time to not only sign the petition, but brought it to my friends and neighbors for them to sign as well. What the City did was pretty much give us the finger and told us to move along. The NPD recently stated that there wasn't a gang problem and because of the Safeway incident, has done a swift turnaround. Clearly, they knew there was a gang issue here since there was a Marin County grand jury report in May 2008 that pointed specifically to areas in Novato where the gangs were (Thank you Kim for pointing that out in another story here) Isn't this the same NPD chief who pushed for an uncontrolled gathering ordinance for 3 or more people who might be too loud at ANY time of the day - with huge fines to be paid to the City? Obviously this ordinance was directed at the tax paying citizens of this city, not at the fellows standing at the corners making lewd comments. Apparently it is more important to collect money than arrest illegal criminals. Finally, I would like to say thank you Jerome for standing up for Novato! To the people that think that Jerome is just ranting and raving, you need to pay attention. He is trying to preserve Novato by bringing these factual issues to the forefront. Too many people are either unaware of what is going on or are burying their heads in the sand. Hopefully people will wake up before it's too late.
Novatan March 03, 2011 at 03:59 PM
A lot of my "friends" used to paint graffiti all over Novato when we were teenagers back in the 1980's. The only difference nowadays is people associate graffiti with skin color and gangs, and not the fact that it's still just bored kids being bored kids. I love Novato. I was born and raised here, and after spending years living in other cities, I chose to come back here to raise my children because it is a safe community full of good people and decent schools. I commend our police force and city leaders for keeping Novato clean and safe. These are hard times for everyone, and Novato still shines as a great place to live.
Brent Ainsworth (Editor) March 03, 2011 at 08:11 PM
To preserve a modicum of civility with these comments, I ask that people sharing their views refrain from getting personal. Thanks.
Dan Ross March 03, 2011 at 08:43 PM
Thanks for keeping these lively online community conversations focused on the messages and not the messengers. Some previously-posted comments to this article have been removed for name-calling and other violations of our acceptable use policy that can be found at http://novato.patch.com/terms. Contact me at dan@patch.com with any questions you may have.
Jerome J Ghigliotti Jr March 03, 2011 at 09:03 PM
Will, you missed the point. I allowed myself to be arrested as a test case, to prove to the lawless council, and the law knowlege impaired Fife, that you CANNOT arrest people for exercising their Constitutional rights. A major purpose was to remove the fear of the council that the citizens of Novato have had in recent years. Instead of chastizing the council at each meeting, maybe I should take on the chore of educating them on the Bill of Rights. STAND UP! Shout at the typhoon.
Renee March 04, 2011 at 03:39 AM
I thought you left Novato?
MOMof2 March 06, 2011 at 07:19 AM
I'v lived in Novato 15 years. 5 years ago I moved into the city limits. I find NPD officers (not all) mostly to be rude, TOP HEAVY and young. Just here to gain time, then move on. Their investigation skills are lacking when a serious crime hits small town PD. Novato needs to be investigated, even trained from FBI, CHP, Peets coffee makers.
Christine March 07, 2011 at 05:11 PM
Renee, I would hardly call anyone standing up for our beautiful city a small minded person.
Renee March 07, 2011 at 05:41 PM
@Christine, oops mabey small minds, was NOT the appropriate adjative. :(
Samira Sharif March 09, 2011 at 06:00 AM
Well said Jen, I especially like the last part "I fear the impoverished living conditions for my fellow humans, poor judgement ..."
Samira Sharif March 09, 2011 at 06:21 AM
Thank you for sharing this fellow Novatan, I have dealt with many youth teenagers that did graffiti simply out of boredom and because they thought it was "cool". This is a good a community yes, I raise my child here and work 10 minutes away from my home. There is however some inclination that with all the budget cuts, overcrowded schools, unemployment, and the help of great mainstream media, bored children turn into destructive aggressors who ultimately commit crime. From that point on it's a spiral. These are indeed hard times and we need to take more caution to make sure we preserve the shine in our city, not just for our own children but the next seven generations to come....
SHROYER FOR SUPERVISOR 2014 May 10, 2011 at 05:41 AM
Novato Residents: Please be aware of the "Draino" bombs. These are chemicals put in plastic soda bottles and left on lawns etc. When picked up they can blow off a finger and contains a hot boiling liquid that can burn. Please contact the Novato Police Department for more information. If you have a Toyota Truck beware. People are stealing cat. converters and selling them on the black market. There have been over 24 of these thefts in Novato. Be safe

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