Every few blocks the flashing lights of a police cruiser lit up Vallejo streets Thursday night.
Police were out in force, working overtime to try to make the streets safer in what they are calling, “Operation Safe Net,”
Officers are saturating problem areas of Vallejo, trying to prevent crime.
“So we can try to curb the shootings we’ve been having on the streets, and the street level robberies we’ve had, the homicides. That’s our main goal,” said Lt. John Whitney as he drove past traffic stop after traffic stop.
Last year Vallejo had 28 homicides. Robberies and burglaries were also up in the area.
Lt. Whitney says crime became a bigger problem after the city went bankrupt and the police department went from a high of 158 officers to just 81 in present day.
Lt. Whitney said when bankruptcy hit, “We lost all our specialized bureaus. We don’t have youth services anymore. We don’t have a crime suppression team anymore on the streets. Our detective unit is down to four detectives. We just lost our narcotics team. Everything that we had basically is gone.” Officers can hardly keep up with the criminals.
“They’ve been strictly reactive, and they haven’t had a chance to be proactive, looking for crimes before they actually occur,” said Whitney.
Operation Safe Net’s goal is to change that.
Officers stopped one man for driving a motorcycle on a sidewalk without a helmet. Police said they found drug paraphernalia and burglary tools in the suspect’s bag.
Officers suspected the bike may have also been stolen.
“Suspicion is motorcycle is more than likely probably stolen,” said Whitney.
A neighbor watching police in action said he had his doubts anything would change in Vallejo.
“I guess it helps, but it’s kind of like taking a small bite out of a big problem,” said the man who asked not to be identified.
The police department is using funds for the 30 officers they have budgeted, but haven’t hired yet, to pay overtime for Operation Safe Net. On its first night, the operation netted 32 arrests and 99 citations. Officer Whitney says the real benefit might be in what they don’t get.
“A lot of times, just the high visibility of us out here is enough to deter crime out on the streets,” he said.