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Crime & Punishment in Our Town Tustin

crime-and-punishmentWith all the recent stories of Federal investigations and Grand Jury reports, it would seem our little corner of the state is a hotbed of criminal activity. And, judging from recent press releases and news stories, it looks like we aren’t far from it. Since neither the city council nor the planning commission will be meeting in the next few weeks, we thought we’d do our civic duty and inform you of some of the more mundane crime in Our Town Tustin.

Sex and the City

The Tustin Police Department sent out a press release asking for the public’s help in a series of Sexual Battery Incidents that have recently plagued the city. It seems a sexual predator has been combing our streets looking for unsuspecting womens’ tushes to ply his trade on.

From the press release:

In all six incidents, the suspect approached either a lone female or females in tandem from behind. The suspect either groped the victim’s buttocks or pulled the victim’s pants down, in concert with the groping.  In each case, the suspect immediately fled after the initial contact and in some cases, apologized as he ran away.

All six incidents have occurred mid-week in the morning or late evening hours.  Locations of the incidents have varied from apartment complexes to public sidewalks in the city.

The suspect has been described a[s] a male white or light skinned Hispanic, 18 – 20 years old, with a thin build.  The suspect may also have a tattoo of an unconfirmed nature on one of his arms.  In one incident, a vehicle was associated to the suspect and it is described only as an older “boxy” black sedan.

 The Megan’s Law database lists 32 sex offenders in the city of Tustin. Most of those are in compliance with the law regarding registration and required contact with the police department. Three of them have failed to register or re-register as required and several more show they may have moved or their whereabouts are unknown at this time. Kind of scary when you think about it.

As a career law enforcement officer who works with mentally ill sex offenders, I can tell you these folks are unpredictable at best. The best defense is to walk with others although, as has been seen in this situation, that is not always enough protection in itself. And, while this offender appears to be apologetic, don’t be fooled into thinking he won’t put up a vicious fight if he feels cornered. So, if your paths cross, don’t take matters into your own hands.

The best way to fight someone like this is to carry your cellphone at all  times when you are out and make sure it is charged. If accosted, yell and scream as loud as possible while running the other way. If you can keep your wits about you, try to get a good look at the suspect to give to Tustin PD investigators. The most important thing is your safety, however. Don’t take chances.

Taking Advantage In Other Ways

Fortunately, not much of our crime is as heinous as sexual predators. On the other end of the criminal spectrum, a Tustin construction contractor plead guilty to evading taxes and theft of a workers wages, in a case file by the California Department of Industrial Relations in January, 2012.

Reza Mohammedi, owner of Irvine based Southland Construction was sentenced to two years in state prison for his crimes. Mohammedi preyed on undocumented workers he hired to work on public construction projects in several Orange County Cities. Although he was cutting paychecks for workers, paying them up to $53 dollars an hour, he would then force the employees to return most of the money to him, allowing them to keep only $150 a day.

Mohammedi, who lives in Tustin but apparently doesn’t do business with the city, used threats of deportation and firings if the workers did not return the money to him. When the Labor Commission began its investigation, Mohammedi coached his workers on what to tell them. Apparently, his threats were not enough as several of his employees filed complaints.

The Orange County DA made an offer of 15 felony counts of tax evasion, 7 felony counts of taking and receiving a portion of a workers wage on public projects, 6 counts of recording false and forged instruments, and 3 felony counts of filing false tax returns. He also had a prior strike conviction for making Criminal Threats in 199.

And, for this, he received only 2 years in prison.

Hopefully, this will deter other business owners from making the same assumptions when it comes to hiring undocumented workers. In this state, their undocumented status is irrelevant (as it should be) when it comes to paying fair wages and keeping standard working conditions.

Well, I am sure there is plenty more crime out there. Thanks to our professional, accredited police department, we can still walk our streets in safety. Makes one wonder who Jeff Parker will tag for our new chief when Scott Jordan retires next month. I’m sure he has someone in mind that he can try out his 21st Century Hiring Process on.

Just Answer the Question

credit: woodchips.com

credit: woodchips.com

I hate it when Tustin Councilmember John Nielsen and I agree on something. But, I have to give credit where credit is due.

John Nielsen asked a very good question at Tuesday’s city council meeting: Why would the city council delegate authority to a staff member to sign off on completed capital projects? The question, in relation to Item 5 on the agenda, was straightforward enough. The answer, on the other hand, was nearly impossible to discern from the smoke and mirrors the city attorney and the public works director threw in front of him as a response.

The city attorney, David Kendig, responded to Nielsen’s question with an answer already in the staff report about the length of time the city has after completion of a project to file necessary paperwork, justifying the delegation by saying the city council doesn’t always meet in a timely manner to approve the authorization. “it’s not that staff won’t report to you that the project has been completed,” said Kendig. No subterfuge, just getting the paperwork done.

OK……

But, John then asked if there were examples of that happening. Kendig deferred to public works guy,Doug Stack, who said,” Yes, we have,” but gave no real examples, only reiterated the reasons just why his department wanted this authority. To justify his position, he stated that two other cities and the OCTA all delegate this authority. So, let’s see, that’s two cities out of thirty-four. Nielsen kind of looked at him and asked again, in so many words, about the necessity of this. Kendig added that he wasn’t aware of any issues with this type of ordinance but, again did not offer an answer to the overall question.

Councilmember Nielsen (and later, Gomez, we found out) simply wanted to make sure the city council wasn’t delegating too much authority in the issue. After all, it is the city council that authorized expenditures for the work. Shouldn’t they insure the project has been completed to satisfaction? He asked if a dollar threshold on the project cost could be included and was again slapped down by the city attorney.

In the end, with Councilmember Gomez’ input, the city made a minor modification to the resolution that would allow the Director of Public Works to submit the paperwork on his own only when it was not feasible to bring it before the city council first.

We would like to have seen stronger language that makes sure staff do not overstep their bounds. Quite frankly, having only 2 other cities, both of whom are much larger than Tustin, handing over this authority, is not enough justification in our mind. We task the city council with total fiscal responsibility and any related approvals should remain with them.

Hopefully, Nielsen and Gomez will remember this episode later this year (we’ll try to remind them) and bring it up for review at a later time to insure the integrity of the policy.

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