Blue Byline

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Five ideas for public safety in 2013

Post by Brian O'Neill on Jan. 6, 2013 at 4:15 pm with 27 Comments »
January 6, 2013 4:16 pm

Now that most people have wandered back home after the holidays, it’s time to crank up the new year.

We mark this transition with appropriate hopes, resolutions and predictions. In keeping with tradition, I’ve put together a list of what I consider the top five public safety priorities this year. These are issues that contribute to the violence, theft and a rate of incarceration that has failed to diminish crime while it drains our wallets.

5 Public Safety Ideas for 2013 (in no particular order)

Proceeds from Camden, NJ gun buyback/ courtesy of

Gun buy-back: For all of the talking points tossed around by gun rights advocates in recent weeks, there are many, many firearms in the possession of people who do not a) store guns safely; b) train properly; c) develop a safe tactical plan. Irresponsible owners are more likely to have their weapons stolen. These often wind up in the hands of gang members, curious children or unstable individuals with a propensity for violence.

The best place for these weapons is a depository at the local police department. Gun buy back programs have been a successful, if expensive method to reduce the street level availability of firearms. In what may be the only silver lining to the national tragedy in Newtown, The Atlantic Journal reports that buy back programs are surging. Our own police agencies should step up, take the lead and provide a suitable outlet for the community’s good will.

Mental health courts: Individuals with psychological disorders are the veritable square peg in the round hole of the criminal justice system. The rise of mental health courts, which includes a Seattle program, follows the successful model of drug courts. When offenses are linked to mental illness, this program redirects offenders into community-based treatment where they are more likely to stay medicated and out of trouble.

Pierce County currently spends money it can’t afford housing mentally ill offenders- it’s time to follow Seattle’s lead and set up our own mental health court.

Home detention for drug offenses: Speaking of budget-busting incarceration, many cash-starved agencies have already transitioned to home monitoring. With jail costs running upwards of $100 per day for an inmate, the ankle bracelet has proven to be a cheaper, mostly palatable option. As overcrowding forces jail supervisors to release prisoners on a daily basis, the need to expand this service – especially for nonviolent drug offenses – should be evident to even the most conservative chiefs and sheriffs.

Hands off DOC: If ever there was a time for public supervision of violent individuals, that time is now. The Department of Corrections, through its community corrections officers, is responsible for monitoring felons on early release from prison. The problem is that few people appreciate their work, especially when DOC is often named as the plaintiff in multi-million dollar judgments for allegedly failing to monitor a killer.

Police officers, who often work side-by-side with CCO’s, know the real story. Tasked with babysitting the worst of the worst, most CCO’s have a huge caseload of offenders and too little time. The spiraling cost of lawsuits against this agency have created a vicious cycle, where fewer dollars means fewer officers to supervise an increasing number of offenders on supervision.

Tort reform and a resurgent DOC are necessary to ensure that violent felons released into the community have the opportunity and the oversight to stay out of trouble.

Proper implementation of marijuana dispensaries: As everyone who didn’t sleep through 2012 knows, marijuana is legal in Washington. The next major hurdle is to set up a professional system for dispensing this drug without involving organized crime or without legitimizing shady businesses that attract the criminal element. Hopefully, the legislature will follow the tight script set up in I-502 and finish what they started.

These five recommendations address the most vital problems facing modern day law enforcement. Gun violence is an epidemic, and increasingly is committed at the hands of disturbed individuals. Keeping tabs on violent criminals, both inside and outside prison walls, is a costly but significant topic for police administrators concerned with community safety amid shrinking budgets.

No, these are not the only challenges we face at the beginning of 2013. But it’s a start.

Leave a comment Comments → 27
  1. Gun buy back programs are one of the biggest frauds perpetrated by local communities. They do nothing to reduce crime, and is yet one more example of political grandstanding.

    Not surprised that it was brought up here, though.

  2. Brian O'Neill says:

    Interesting article. However, your belief in the LA Times writer’s opinion is a case of choosing the mouthpiece who best represents your own view. Working in a gang unit, I saw first hand that gangs armed themselves through burglaries and gun thefts. These often old and rusty guns were taken from homes and locations that are the same source of guns delivered to buy back programs.

  3. TheButlerDidIt says:

    I’m not convinced of the gun buy-back program, but do agree with your 3 talking points, especially training. As a certified NRA Range Safety Officer, I’d like to see that everyone gets basic firearms safety training before or (at least) immediately after buying a firearm. Perhaps take the money spent on gun buy-back programs and offer free basic safety courses to any available gun range or club. Maybe the clubs and ranges could discount their rate to whoever would run a program like this. Lots of good will and better education of new owners (hey, maybe even an education course for those who don’t want to own a firearm but they would understand firearms better and not keep spreading the vast misinformation out there).

  4. Brian O'Neill says:

    You make a good point, butler. If everyone were trained in the proper use and storage, there would be fewer weapons stolen and fewer accidental mishaps.

  5. Just change mental health treatment to what it was 20 years ago.

  6. A masters degree meant something back then.

  7. Gandalf says:

    Your logic is, well, gang bangers steal guns from private citizens, so any reduction of guns in private citizens hands is a good thing.

    Even if studies show gun buy backs do not reduce crime rates.

    In addition, don’t you think there’s a possibility that at least some of the guns turned in with these gun buybacks were used in a crime, and that in effect the police are destroying evidence? And to top it off we pay money to do so?

    Sorry, but these liberal ideas are so bad they make my head hurt.

    The giant elephant in the room, that NO ONE seems to want to talk about, is the mental health issue. Instead, we have these gun buyback programs that best do nothing, while individuals with serious mental health issues are planning their next violent endeavor in a gun free zone. To make matters worse, is that their is someone out there that KNOWS their brother, sister, cousin, mother, father, son, daughter, co-worker, etc have violent tendencies yet do nothing, or are powerless to do anything in the face of the ACLU and other rights organizations. So instead of blaming the violent mentally ill people, we blame the tools. Did we blame the airline manufacturers for 9/11?

  8. Anything that reduces the number of guns in society is a positive step.
    Identifying mentally ill people who may also be violent is nearly impossible and all you need to miss is one and you have a disaster. The answer is to remove deadly high capacity weapons from our society. Mental health issues should be addressed and a tax on ammunition would be a good way to help pay for new programs. About $10 a round would be a good place to begin.

  9. donfosters says:

    It seems to me that gun buy back programs will encourage criminals to steal guns from legal gun owners. Not all stolen guns from home burglaries are old and rusty. Seattle’s buy back program is a no questions asked names, no photo id required. This would be a perfect opportunity for a criminal to make a profit on a stolen gun (cost $0-buyback $100, do the math) and also to get rid of a weapon used in a crime.

    My least expensive handgun is valued at more than $100, why would I want to turn it in?

  10. Brian O'Neill says:

    Gun buy back programs are not targeted at individuals who value and safeguard their weapons, donfosters. The intent is to remove weapons that are more likely to fall into the wrong hands. Whether this program encourages criminals to steal guns to sell at buy backs (I seriously doubt it, given that a burglary of a firearm is a Class A felony and not worth over five years in prison) or not, this is less about financial loss and more about the violent results when those same firearms are used in criminal assaults.

    Want to keep your guns? Go ahead. Just don’t be part of the naysayers that will throw any objection, no matter how irrelevant, at a program that has even the slightest potential to prevent harm.

  11. NotPoliticallyCorrect says:

    Want to keep your guns? Go ahead. Just don’t be part of the naysayers that will throw any objection, no matter how irrelevant, at a program that has even the slightest potential to prevent harm.

    I feel I don’t have to be a naysayer. Those who try to implement whatever programs, are usually their own worst enemy.

  12. NPC, that’s ridiculous!

  13. simonsjs says:

    Gun buy backs are nothing more than anti gun propaganda designed to make the weak feel like something is being done to make them feel safer.

  14. Gun nuts don’t like gun buy-back programs, because they are an intrusion into and a diminution of the super macho persona gun nuts try to maintain.

  15. Brian O'Neill says:

    Thanks for the comments. Obviously this is a contentious issue, especially for the vocal group that opposes measures seeking to diminish the presence of guns in our society. I appreciate their passion, to a point.

    As the body count continues to rise from gun violence, the question that should be on all of our minds is, “What are we going to do about it?” The problem with the naysayers is that they aren’t asking this question. They are too busy tearing apart any answer that bears even a hint of restriction on their rights.

    I don’t believe that gun buy back programs intrude upon the 2nd Amendment, nor do I believe these present a peril to legitimate gun owners. While I believe that these programs can and logically should have an impact (even a slight impact should be important to everyone- what if the person who is spared turns out to be someone you care about?) the fact that people still expend their energy tearing apart this program demonstrates a single-minded thought process.

    Instead, I urge the naysaysers to be constructive, and come up with a better. In the meantime, I suggest they refrain from demeaning the efforts of businesses, agencies and individuals who have put their money, time and energy into finding solutions.

  16. NotPoliticallyCorrect says:

    If you think guns are really racking up a body count. Maybe we should take peoples cars, bicycles etc. away. Care to check out how many people are killed in auto accidents each year? If you think the naysayers are not asking what are we going to do about this, guess again. All we have been hearing is how the government wants to go after all law abiding citizens guns, national registrations, tax stamps, special permits, then of course being placed in the same category as pedophiles.

    Thanks to the government and other special interest groups. They have just contributed a great deal to potential threats for the future. Millions more guns and ammo purchased, in fear or concern the government may want to do this or that. Resulting in millions of guns being purchased the last half of december. Where there would probably have been a fraction of that sold, if there was not another knee jerk reaction to the shooting(s).

    If you want a suggestion for starters, why not start with the mess, the federal government started with fast and furious. Personally I believe there is no solution to the problem. All we can do is live our lives, and watch out for the occasional nutcase along the way.

  17. Brian O'Neill says:

    That is such a tired cliche, NPC.

    Have you forgotten that cars are regulated and licensed well in excess of what is required of guns? Imagine what would happen if the two were treated the same: a Department of Guns, where you would wait in a long line to apply for a license; you would then receive a permit to train (at a gun range), after which you would queue up again to take a skills test; with license in hand, you would go shopping, but no matter where you bought your gun – private citizen, gun shop, travelling gun show – you would need to register your gun and display that gun registration in a visible fashion whenever you took it out in public.

    That is how we keep track of cars which, though they provide a basic necessity on a daily basis, kill so many of us. Is that really what you want, because it is far more than what people who espouse gun control are seeking?

    While I thank you for your comment, I would hope you would provide a little more originality.

  18. Brian, as long as you cling to the theory that “we have to do something”, regardless of how pointless, on the theory that there is a slight chance at some point we might have saved someones life, there can’t be any discourse on the subject.

  19. Brian O'Neill says:

    If your response to this tragedy is to blow holes in others’ ideas, wring your hands and say, “Oh well, that’s life,” then you are correct. You’re wasting your time on this discussion.

  20. smokey984 says:

    Congressman Steve Stockman has introduced H.R. 35, the Safe Schools Act of 2013. This a bill to allow principals, teachers, and staff to possess firearms in order to defend their students. Please contact your congresscritters and say NO to all “gun control” (civilian disarmament) bills and YES to H.R. 35.

    Also, be advised, Vice President Joe Biden hinted that executive orders on guns might be coming quite soon. Two likely actions: An import ban on 11+ round magazines (except for the military and law enforcement), and perhaps reclassifying the Saiga 12 shotgun as a Destructive Device. If you need any spare magazines for any of your imported guns, then buy them ASAP!

  21. simonsjs says:

    If odumbo tries something like this, he’s gonna get what he’s wanted a lot sooner than he may have hoped. Anarchy in the USA!

  22. Sobriquet says:

    Mr. O’Neill,

    If guns are so bad (and God knows they are).

    Would you, could you, kindly turn yours in and be more like Britain?

    You would make Piers Morgan proud.

    Turn in your gun in return for a billy club. After all, that’s all you need to enforce the law. Unless you are out to murder as many as possible with your high capacity magazines.

  23. Brian, I do not wring my hands and say “oh well, that’s life”, I remind people of the fact that the 2nd amendment is a human right of self protection against enemies both foreign and domestic. I also point out the waste of time and money of the proposals by the gun control crowd (which you are a member) that historically have done nothing to stop violent crime. Finally, we (gun rights advocates) have proposed many suggestions, all of which the left shouts down. Please stop characterizing gun rights advocates as uncaring jerks. We are horrified by tragic events as any other human being. We just choose to not use such tragedies for political gain and to push agendas designed to punish legal gun owners. It sickens me the obscene blood dancing going on.

  24. simonsjs says:

    Censorship is alive and well here!

  25. Brian O'Neill says:

    simsonsjs- When your comments are nothing more than insults, they will be deleted. I recommend finding another website to vent your anger.

  26. Man I try to stay away from your columns, but sometimes I just can’t. Always amuses me for you to push an expensive program that is just hype, playing into the old cliche, then insult others opinions (NPC in this case and simonsjs), accuse them of tired old cliches. Fact is, there are numerous real-world solutions that liberals just won’t accept. Quit wasting money on these gun buy-backs, hire armed guards in all schools, allow teachers that want to carry to subject themselves to the same basic psych evals and shooting evals somebody has to pass to become an officer, pay them an extra certification pay to carry in schools. Done…that easy, we have eliminated the soft target killing zones, and we have “school marshals” just like air marshals. The perps don’t know who is carrying, and they now know the schools aren’t a state mandated soft killing zone. Your own paper acknowledges in their well-written editorial that the AR is a gun of “modest power”. Gun buy-backs are just another political ploy.

    Your other ideas have merit; Wish you had the journalistic integrity to accept that other people have ideas other than your own, and not just dismiss them as “tired of cliches”, or accuse them of hand-wringing because they don’t agree with you waste of money on a feel-good approach solutions versus real-world solutions. You are much like Biden “if it only saves one life”….

  27. Pacman33 says:

    Why do you chose to keep using the term “idea”, as if gun buyback programs are some kind of new concept? This tired cop-out has been attempted for well over 2 decades. Inasmuch, they have never made the slightest impact on any crime statistic over this stretch of time. The fact that people still expend their energy advocating this program demonstrates a single-minded thought process.

    “The problem with the naysayers is that they aren’t asking this question.”

    What a crock. It is you and others content on wasting time, energy and resources on failed, regurgitated “ideas” from the past – that are the “naysayers”. The “naysayers” are those who simply suggest MORE laws like the ‘gun free zone’ law; despite the fact it merely aided – if not enabled – the shooter in Conn.

    As TMell stated: “Fact is, there are numerous real-world solutions that liberals just won’t accept.” It is those who push things like this, who should ask themselves: ‘What are we going to do about it – by repeating the the same failed nonsense that’s been attempted before?’ Further, when those same people have the nerve to absurdly proclaim it is … others … who are Not attempting to find a solution – it appears like they could care less about changing anything.

    “While I believe that these programs can and logically should have an impact …”

    With all due respect, it doesn’t matter what you “Believe”. What matters is the absence of any benefit when these things have been tried in the past and the likelihood of the same action getting different results. Moreover, how can anyone Believe that this type of foolishness is NOT making us less safe when considering our response is repeating junk previously established as ineffective,having zero impact? Though we believe we are acting to correct the problem, the issue not being addressed whatsoever. Insofar as, we are simply wringing our hands and saying, “Oh well, that’s life,” when our ‘solution’ is rehashing blunders from the past, while ignoring real ideas based on logic – instead the belief in a different outcome of the same action.

    Just think of the possibility of finally achieving results if we embraced reality for a moment to address this issue. Instead of pretending that the idea of buybacks is a new idea with potential of making a difference. Instead of ignoring the suggestions of others, make-believing like they don’t exist. Instead of providing a false sense of security from the lazy repetition of past mistakes and calling them responses or solutions. How about a goal of legitimate safety by trying something different that is based on reality and logic? Even if it made a slight impact, it should be important to everyone. What if the person who is spared turns out to be someone you care about?

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