San Diego Crime and Police – Candidates for District 2 Speak Out

by on April 14, 2022 · 1 comment

in Election, Ocean Beach

The San Diego Union Tribune Editorial Board sent a 10-question survey to the five viable candidates in the San Diego City Council District 2 race. OB Rag staff rearranged their responses on an issue by issue basis.

Q: What are the root causes of crime in San Diego and how do you plan to address the recent spikes in crime across the city?

Joel Day:

The cornerstone of a safe city is a stable city. The COVID-19 pandemic has destroyed stable, predictable foundations of public life, eroding trust in all institutions. The pandemic has shaken the stability of housing, health care, psychological services, and most importantly, access to jobs and education. We aren’t alone — violent crime has expanded in neighborhoods around the world, particularly those hard hit by the pandemic. As community connections and economic opportunities have been strained, and as preventative measures have diminished, people on the brink are more desperate than ever and criminals see an opportunity to prey on the weakness of our communities. But we can fight back.

The solution is to restitch the fabric of our community through new initiatives. That starts more upstream than chasing down criminals after a crime is committed. We need the right people doing the right work in our communities, investing in social workers and community health teams to tackle homelessness, more lifeguards on our beaches, and requiring the police to get out of their vehicles and actually be visible in every San Diego neighborhood. Neighborhoods should have engaged officers, replicating policing models in Japan, Germany and Scandanavian cities. Getting police out of their cars, getting to know business owners and residents — building relationships and trust — is the best way to ensure we build neighborhoods of inclusion and safety.

Lori Saldana:

As an attorney might say: “Means, motive, and opportunity.” And those vary greatly by communities. We saw disturbing increases in domestic violence and sexual assault during the early months of the pandemic. These offenses are most often committed by a person known to the victim, and some feared the increase was due to the stress of being in extended lockdowns and close proximity to family and partners.

It may surprise people to learn that reports of violent assaults have been highest in popular tourism, dining and hospitality centers: Kearny Mesa, Pacific Beach, Core-Columbia, Gaslamp and East Village. Paradoxically, the highest reports of larceny and property crimes were in University City (70), Hillcrest (66), Kearny Mesa and La Jolla (60), and Pacific Beach (50).

All these reports raise the question: Are people in these communities in the northern areas of San Diego more at risk — or are they more likely to report the crimes to police?

Clear the backlog of untested sexual assault evidence kits and commit to 100 percent testing going forward. DNA testing often identifies people involved with other crimes in addition to the initial assault.

Mandy Havlik:

This is an issue that is very personal for me. My older brother throughout his adolescent years into adulthood has been in and out of prison many times for a variety of crimes. I have endured lost holidays, a chaotic childhood and family upheaval due to his criminal background.

Some of the root causes are lack of support for mental health, poverty, lack of opportunity, lack of support for families and lack of education. A lot of the negative societal impacts can be avoided if we make more investments into our community with adequate funding into education, support for the arts and culture, funding for more parks and community services such as libraries, recreation centers and school programs.

We need to examine the types of crime, distinguish between violent and nonviolent crimes. We should demand more from law enforcement and make better use of technology.

Due to my background, I have a particular insight into the social harms that crime inflicts on criminals’ victims and the criminals’ own families.

I plan to call attention to crime that is happening in our community, increase patrols, and provide incentives to recruit new police officers and retain current officers. I plan to conduct ridealongs, not photo ops with a captain, but with beat patrol officers to get a better understanding of the challenges facing our community.

Linda Lukas:

There are many potential causes for the spike in crime across our city, such as the economic and emotional hardships caused by the pandemic, the lack of trust in law enforcement agencies, emptying of prisons, and light sentencing guidelines, to name a few.

I’ve spoken with many business owners as well as public safety officers and my neighbors. Many have expressed their concerns with what they note to be a lack of enforcement of our laws. This is taking an obvious toll on them and our community. Our law enforcement agencies must be adequately staffed and be able to respond efficiently. An understaffed and poorly supported public servant structure is untenable and leads to unfortunate consequences, actions and stress. I support bringing back police department substations to our communities as it is imperative to encourage more community oriented policing strategies that have been proven to reduce division and build trust.

Residents and law enforcement must work together for the safety of our communities. We are all part of this community, and we have to make concerted efforts to facilitate this acknowledgment, communication, interaction and respect.

Additionally, it is important that our city and state policies on crime align and are in the best interests of the citizens. I will work with the state to reach the safest and most favorable decisions for our district.

Jen Campbell:

Our city’s big infrastructure backlog makes news, but we have an equally concerning backlog when it comes to human infrastructure like childcare, after-school programs?, and stable housing that’s needed to keep communities truly safe in every way. These are the family sustaining basics we need to prevent crime and reduce recidivism in the long run.

Safety, of course, means having police ready to respond to violent crime, but it also means schools where kids are cared for, communities where families are truly connected to one another, homes where families feel safe, and neighborhoods where the proliferation of guns is an aberration, not the norm.

We can bolster our public safety response through more smart community-based investments and continuing to lead on gun safety. I’m a strong supporter of San Diego’s new Office of Race & Equity that’s helping guide a more comprehensive approach to public safety by investing in communities and families that really need it.

I have been and will continue to be a strong voice for common-sense gun safety action. On the City Council, I’ve supported more resources and prosecutors to advance the City Attorney’s pioneering use of red flag gun laws, and I was an early supporter of the city’s efforts to crack down on untraceable ghost guns. Stemming the flow of firearms that fuel violence and doubling down on investments in our at-risk communities are critical to making San Diego safer for all our families.

Q: How would you rate the San Diego Police Department? What are its strengths and/or weaknesses? Would you favor increasing or decreasing its budget and why?

Joel Day:

I will demand both accountability and action from SDPD. I’ve spearheaded policing reforms to ensure our officers are held accountable for their actions when dangerous or out of line, and I won’t write a blank check with taxpayer money to any department. I have a plan to hold the chief accountable, rein in out-of-control overtime expenses, fight to get bad cops out of service and hire better ones, and ensure the training budget doesn’t get slashed again.

Reforms don’t necessarily mean cuts. We need to spend money where it has the most impact. Police are trained to confront and investigate crime, not solve mental health issues, act as social workers or be the first touchpoint for homelessness. This is why police should no longer be first responders to quality of life complaints, neighbor disputes, school discipline, or mental health episodes. For these needs, the City Council must invest in teams of code compliance officers, social workers, drug abuse professionals, and specially trained Psychiatric Emergency Response Teams. More civilian support means that police can focus better on their work — preventing and solving crime, not social problems.

I believe we must invest in personnel. When the city of San Diego recruits police officers but fails to pay them wages equal or better to other cities, we lose twice: once on the initial investment of training time and resources, and again with staff shortages. I’ll fight for pay parity for all first responders, including hiring bonuses, housing stipends and better pay.

Lori Saldana:


Strengths: Community outreach and participation in public meetings and events. Representatives to town councils and community planning groups provide good information and points of contact for residents at monthly meetings.

Weaknesses: Use of officers to address homelessness; lack of transparency related to racial profiling and related higher use of force against BIPOC people; lack of de-escalation skills; insufficient Psychiatric Emergency Response Team staff responding quickly to mental and behavioral health calls.

I favor maintaining current funding levels and improving training with a goal of improving crisis response, reducing racial profiling and preventing sexual assaults. Increase training for situations that are more likely to result in injuries and deaths to officers and others. Measure what the city has paid in settlements due to excessive use of force, deaths in custody, etc. and focus on reducing these expenditures. Expand Homeless Outreach Team and Psychiatric Emergency Response Team programs to reduce response times.


San Diego has always prided itself on a low ratio of police to number of residents. I support our police department and think that the organization has been operating exceptionally well despite having a shortage of police officers.

Due to staffing shortfalls, I want to fund other social service agencies to help take the burden off our police department by responding to nonviolent and non-emergency calls such as homeless issues, nonviolent domestic cases and mental health issues. By reducing that burden, we can allow our police officers to respond to the emergencies and 911 calls that they are trained for.

We could also ensure more support for our police if we could adequately fund mental health agencies and Psychiatric Emergency Response Teams, requiring those agencies to respond to calls for help with those suffering from mental health issues. We also need to adequately increase funding for homelessness agencies to provide the much-needed support to our unhoused community.

Residents know that if they call the non-emergency number, they may be on hold for an hour or more and even then, a police officer may not show up. The lack of enforcement of the law within our communities is startling. We need to have SDPD staffed properly and other social agencies available to respond to non-emergency calls when appropriate.

Retention of current employees is key. Our city should pay competitive wages, create new housing initiatives that connect our police officers, firefighters and teachers to the communities they serve by providing a housing credit in the form of a massive reduction in property taxes or a housing allowance. This will help build accountability and connection to the community as well.


I think it’s unfair to rate the SDPD in the context of current conditions in which the full potential of its members to do good for the entire community is being hindered.

I believe that our SDPD is doing the best that it can with staffing challenges, pressures and workforce conditions. I am in favor of creating a department that supports officers, fosters growth, promotes career advancement, and reestablishes a justifiable pride in their work.

I am in favor of increasing the SDPD budget to reflect and address our ever-increasing costs of living. We need to enable our officers to afford to live and thrive in our wonderful city, to be a part of our community both on and off the job. We need to encourage the best and the brightest within the department to lead. This doesn’t cost anything.

We’re at a critical juncture right now. We’ve lost a lot of great people and the resulting situation is taking its toll. It is imperative to provide a fair compensation package that is consistent with the cost of living to minimize burnout, turnover and staffing issues. Tired and demoralized officers cannot be expected to provide appropriate services that we all are entitled to demand. Additionally, an increase in budget would support important ongoing training in threat and crisis management for our safety and theirs.

Our law enforcement officers should be and need to be proud to work and live in the city they protect and serve.


My first obligation as your City Councilmember is keeping our communities safe. I see our first responders’ incredible work every day, and I know they’re doing the job without nearly enough support, staffing and resources. We have to do better.

We need more committed police officers protecting our communities, not fewer, and we need to pay them competitively so we’re not constantly recruiting new officers to replace the ones we keep losing to cities that pay better. Some of my opponents have actually called for defunding the police — I don’t support that.

But I do believe we need to focus the funding in smarter, more effective ways than in the past. We need to reinstate community policing. And the county’s new Mobile Crisis Response Teams are a great innovation we should expand citywide. We need more trained mental health clinicians responding to mental health crises so our police can spend more time focused on stopping violent crime.

Of course, we need more accountability and continued reform because protecting communities from crime and upholding civil rights go hand in hand. I’m optimistic that our new Commission on Police Practices will help build community trust and reduce use of force. And we need to keep advancing a more modern, comprehensive view of public safety because smart investments in education, mental health and community support services are often the best ways to prevent crime before it starts.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Tessa April 14, 2022 at 6:40 pm

My home was burglarized a couple of weeks ago here in O B. The officers who responded were very courteous and concerned, if somewhat demoralied by conditions in the Police Department itself – primarily noting understaffing in the department itself. They also lamented the high cost of housing here, and said they would probably depart for elsewheres sooner or later – where the cost of living was less onerous. Not being wealthy myself, I certainly understnd the sentiment.


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