Monday, April 13, 2009

Are we safe in Tracy?

It seems a fair question to ask, seeing as how in the past four months, Tracy has witnessed:

• The Sandra Cantu case, in which an 8-year-old girl disappeared from her neighborhood and was found dead 10 days later in a suitcase.
• The Peter Chi case, in which an ear/nose/throat doctor who also did plastic surgery faces more than 60 counts of sexual abuse and rape.
• The Jessie Llorente III case, in which a substitute teacher, according to police, admitted to becoming aroused when touching his students and posessing child porn.
• The Kyle captivity case, in which a teenager was allegedly held captive in Tracy and tortured by a quartet of adults.

Problem is, assessing safety through anecdotes, especially high-profile ones, isn't always accurate.

Tracy might certainly feel less safe, but that doesn't mean Tracy is less safe.

We've seen that in several Tracy communities, Neighborhood Watch and similar programs have effectively tamped down crime rates. And when compared to other cities in Northern California, the state and the country, Tracy is toward the top in terms of crime statistics.

Of course, numbers are dispassionate. While they tell us Tracy is no Detroit or Oakland, they don't account for how certain crimes make us feel, and how we perceive our community.

The Sandra Cantu kidnapping/killing — and other crimes visited upon children — evokes a visceral, emotional response that goes far beyond statistics. There's no metric to measure the fear of a parent or the concern of a neighbor dealing with a drug house.

So even if numbers say Tracy is safe, the standard gut reaction might not match for a long time.

And as far as the liveability of a city is concerned, that perception might matter more than reality.

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