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Dozens rally in support of police

Marchers holding signs turn out at Costa Mesa City Hall to express concerns over officer staffing and public safety.

September 17, 2013|By Jeremiah Dobruck
  • Joy Williams, with Costa Mesans for Responsible Government, participates in a rally on Fair Drive in front of the Costa Mesa Civic Center on Tuesday.
Joy Williams, with Costa Mesans for Responsible Government,… (SCOTT SMELTZER,…)

At least 60 people rallied outside Costa Mesa City Hall on Tuesday night, holding signs that read "Crime is up. Got cops?" and "Support police, not political agendas."

The rally, organized by the grass-roots group Costa Mesans for Responsible Government, also known as CM4RG, aimed to support police and raise awareness for what members see as a looming public safety crisis, said the group's president, Robin Leffler.

"What we're really really concerned about is safety for our neighbors and safety for ourselves," Leffler said.

She cited Costa Mesa crime rate, which rose in 2012, and City Council decisions to reduce police staffing.

"I think it's been simmering for a really long time," she said. "We've been very aware that our police force has been decimated."

In June, statistics released by the FBI showed that Costa Mesa was one of the few Orange County cities that saw an increase in violent crime during 2012 in addition to a relatively common increase in property crime.

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An uptick in rapes and assaults in the city caused a 9.9% increase in the violent crime category compared with 2011, according to the FBI's numbers.

At the time, a police official said it would be speculative to attribute the bump to reduced staffing levels at the department and instead said California's prisoner realignment could be a factor. Realignment is intended to ease prison overcrowding by shifting responsibility for some inmates from state prisons to the county level.

Katie Arthur, an 18-year Eastside resident, said the crime rate became personal as she saw neighbors homes broken into.

"I'm sure it's a complicated issue, but one factor without question has to do with the number of police that we have on the street and the fact that we're having difficulty in hiring good candidates, because it's such a caustic environment that good candidates would probably prefer to go work for other cities," she said.

Arthur was referring to a Daily Pilot report about police sources who were worried that heated politics in Costa Mesa has made finding qualified candidates more difficult.

CM4RG members have frequently criticized the City Council majority, which includes Mayor Jim Righeimer and Mayor Pro Tem Steve Mensinger, and many protesters put the blame at their feet Tuesday.

"You have individuals with an agenda that, I think in their heart, they believe may be best for the city, but we can see some negative unintended consequences," said Joy Williams, a 53-year Costa Mesa resident.

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