Edi Birsan, Concord Councilmember

With 521 total responses in the last “Pulse of Concord” survey, there exists a noble outlook in addressing City concerns that is held in check by the harsh realities of what we perceive.
For example, for the question, “If the City of Concord was to direct an additional $1 million a year for the next 5 years which category would you pick if you had to pick only ONE?” (12 areas were listed).

22% Crime Prevention
17% Road Repair
11% Raising Elementary School Performance
10% Homeless Housing-unconditional entry
09% Homeless Housing for mentally ill
02% Homeless Housing for addicted in program

The combined Homeless categories equals the Crime Prevention, but in some ways, they are related. The use of the word ‘prevention’ in the crime category was intentional. In Concord, the unsheltered have been both victims and perpetrators of reported and unreported crime including vandalism, theft, arson, assaults, and even one case of murder.
Calls for service relating to the homeless is significant. We have created an expanded CORE homeless service team that has had some success in getting people reestablished and off the streets. CORE has instituted a new Mental Health response team and it is too early to judge their impact, but there is a strong overlap with mental crisis and crime. One might reason that by housing the homeless, it would also aid in crime prevention.
How far would a million dollars a year accomplish? In the case of road repair, probably close to six to eight blocks. In terms of housing the unsheltered, well, when last year we put people up in a motel, it was between $3,000 to $4,000 per month not counting the cost of support people. If we could get that down to say $1500 per month for housing/food/utilities etc., then it would fund 55 people.
But what is the factor in crime prevention when we take those 55 folks off the street? The reality is that people want to remove the homeless that they see and hear as a priority which often is the mentally unstable or those dragging around their possessions in shopping carts or sleeping on the sidewalks or tents.
However, the screening classically favors those candidates easiest to transition to housing and sustainability. Which leaves us with the more problematic folks still on the streets.
What about other areas of crime prevention? Domestic Violence which accounts for about a third of our violent crimes is the target of a Family Justice Center but that will take a generation at least to begin to cut down on that.
There is an entire range of low-level crimes such as car break ins, porch pirates and the like. When asked, “Are we being too soft on low level criminals,” a solid 63% agree and 18% disagree (the rest were unsure.)
Of course, it would be most welcome to make porch pirates walk the plank to an alligator filled pool. Yet, in the prevention category, there is a growing divide between those that see punishment as a deterrent and those that see social ills and inequities as a cause.
At the end of the day, as we assert ideas for what we want to accomplish, we must reckon deep within ourselves, are the results what we really want to pay for and accept?

The “Pulse of Concord” survey helps generate discussion and collect different points of view. Be engaged, I invite you take my next survey at www.PulseofConcord.com. Afterall, the key to local government is to engage. They are either engaged with you or engaged with someone else.

This is the rambling opinion of Edi Ersalesi Birsan, not to be confused with any official proclamation from an organized or unorganized governmental or private enterprise. You can reach him at EdiBirsan@gmail.com or at Peet’s Coffee at Oak Grove and Treat.