Wednesday, Feb 05 2014 06:00 AM

Now & Then: Tehachapi and crime

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Reports of crime -- and arrests -- seem to be a big part of local news lately.

Waking to the noise of a helicopter searching the downtown area last Saturday night was a surprise, though.

Soon after listening to the police scanner -- and checking comments that people made on Facebook -- it became clear that the apparent threat was under control.

As we go to press on Monday there is still speculation about whether the man who entered Tehachapi Hospital had a gun or not, but several people who were in the hospital believed he did and felt threatened.

I am always surprised when people express shock that "it can happen here." Tehachapi is a relatively small, rural area, but we have the same problems as everywhere else -- unemployment, mental illness, alcoholism and those who for whatever reason just can't seem to get along.

And a good number of people passing through daily on a major state highway with all of the above attributes and sometimes a specific intent to steal and get back on the freeway as quickly as possible.

What is amazing to me is how quickly our local police usually catch the evil-doers -- although catching them and convincing the District Attorney's office to convict them is a whole other story.

I am also astounded by people who complain that the police in "their" jurisdiction have responded to another area -- for instance, Bear Valley Springs or Stallion Springs officers driving to the city (or vice versa).

The fact is that we have precious few law enforcement positions spread out over a relatively large geographical area and I'm very glad they work together. It's for their safety and ours.

If you are among those people who think "it can't happen here" and don't lock your doors or cars, wise up.

And if you think that the fact that we have crime means that Tehachapi isn't still a great place to live, I'd like to remind you that the fact is that incidents such as we had on Saturday night are still news in Tehachapi, but in many other places they're just commonplace occurrences.

Efforts such as the local "Crime Watch" are good. Paying attention is good. Locking up your stuff is essential. And understanding that a good part of the problem is that the state has been required to live with federal court rulings that mean that people who belong in jail or prison don't stay there. They're being released and in many cases going right back to the behavior that got them locked up in the first place.

I applaud the efforts of our local police to keep our communities safe; I'd like to see better communication from the Kern County District Attorney's office which rarely bothers to return calls or respond to inquiries about the status of cases.

One can make a case that they're over-burdened, but it would seem to me that having a system of communicating with the public -- to let us know, for instance, why a case hasn't been pursued -- would be good community relations.

In the meantime, we do our best to follow court cases about arrests that we've reported, although it is not easy.


News that Lisa Gilbert will be leaving Tehachapi Unified for a job with the Kern County Office of Education is disappointing.

Gilbert stepped into the role at a very difficult time with Tehachapi Unified facing federal orders to implement an unpopular curriculum.

From where I sit she's done a very good job. She listened and thoughtfully guided the district to a point that may not have pleased everyone, but at least valued local input.

Through these challenging times our school board also gained some very important stability.

Funding challenges and declining enrollment continue to be problems for local public schools and I'm hopeful that the board will find a new leader of Gilbert's calibre to take over.

Golden Hills

What may be the last step in the Golden Hills Community Services District's effort to manage trash collection within its boundaries is approval of a "mitigated negative declaration of environmental impact" to be considered by the district's board this week.

Typically, such an environmental review would be among the first steps a governmental agency would take, not the last, but the report doesn't show a tremendous impact, just some fairly commonplace precautions to take as land is prepared for the operation.

Whether a company from Bakersfield can compete with the established hauler, charge less and share revenue with the district remains to be seen.

Having elected to actually take on another of the many services under its scope since the mid-60s, I wonder if this is a new beginning for Golden Hills. Might we see more concern for water quality and related sewage treatment, for instance? Time will tell.


CLAUDIA ELLIOTT is editor of the Tehachapi News. Send email to celliott@tehachapinews.com or call 822-6360.

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