Making our streets safe

Cameron Smyth Commentary, Right Here Right Now

Since leaving the Legislature two year ago, I have spent my time looking forward and focused on the future, but recent events in our community forced me to look back at decisions made in Sacramento that I knew would have dire results.
In 2011, Legislation was introduced and signed into law that was designed to meet the court-mandated prisoner reductions in California’s prison population. That bill, AB 109, proposed that offenders of certain crimes of a “non-serious, non-sexual, and non-violent nature” were eligible for early release, could be held in local jails, or ordered to serve little-to-no jail time. I stood against this bill for many reasons, among which is that the release only took into consideration the most recent conviction. Additionally, many of those convictions were reduced-charge plea deals that didn’t take into consideration the serious, sexual or violent nature of the crime committed. I, along with the others who voted against the bill, knew that it was just a matter of time before some unspeakable crime could be committed by someone released under AB 109.

While it was not the first, unquestionably Matthew Warner’s horrific crime (alleged) against his infant daughter was the most heinous: and he lived in our community. Warner was arrested last week for the sexual abuse and murder of his infant daughter, a crime he would not have been able to commit had he remained behind bars. Warner had been previously convicted of crimes that seemed minor in nature and was released under this policy. As a parent of a young daughter, I cannot imagine what resides in someone who is capable of such a vile act, and I hope the prayers and support of Santa Clarita have eased the pain of baby Ellorah’s family during this unspeakable time in their lives. 

Despite living in one of the safest cities in the country, Santa Clarita is not immune to the impact of misguided legislation like AB 109 and Proposition 47 (another early release program). Despite the best efforts of local law enforcement who are forced to deal with such evil face to face, this new reality requires new thinking. Our City Council must review the upcoming budget and ensure resources are in place to deal with this new population of “non-violent” parolees. Increased monitoring, neighborhood notifications, and more frequent patrols all should be part of a comprehensive plan to further protect our City.

I certainly recognize that some these men and women have had an honest change of heart and are looking for a new start to their lives. We are fortunate that Santa Clarita has a network in place to provide transitional support. Whether it be substance abuse counseling, vocational training/continuing education at College of the Canyons or work re- entry programs with local employers, Santa Clarita has and will step up to help. 

Through these and other practical measures we can continue to keep Santa Clarita safe for our families and businesses. My hope is we can protect our community from other unspeakable tragedies and once again Santa Clarita can be the example to other cities on how to deal with issues that stem from the fall out of AB 109 and Proposition 47.