District Attorney Cliff Newell launched his re-election campaign last week in time-honored style, invoking the specter of a crime that occurred over 20 years ago in another county.
“I’m here to protect you from the Richard Davises of the world,” he told his supporters, referring to the man who was convicted of kidnapping and murdering 12-year-old Polly Klaas in 1993. Thanks to advocacy work of her father, Marc Klaas, the case has resonated with people since then.
In general, crime is down in California and the nation, a long-time trend that tracks the country’s aging population. But Nevada County is going against the trend, with an increase in violent crime that is expected to continue this year, according to CityRatings.com, which helps people “Find the best places to live in the USA.” (Note to Realtors: Don’t show this site to your out-of-town clients.)
“Grass Valley crime statistics report an overall upward trend in crime based on data from 11 years, with violent crime increasing and property crime decreasing,” according to the site. It came to a similar conclusion about Nevada City.
The increase in local crime has come at a time when police departments, the sheriff’s office, and the district attorney have been forced to reduce staff because of budget cuts. The Grass Valley Police Department when from 31 to 20 positions and is currently at 24.
Newell pointed to the realignment of the state prison system as a potential source of problems in the future. According to The Union, Newell told his audience that realignment has created a “pool of criminal elements” within the county. “Someone has to stand tough, and in front.”
But you have to walk the walk if you’re going to talk the talk, and Newell’s office has a mixed record in that regard. Take the case of Robert B. DeMatteis, who was charged in 2011 with eight counts of sexual abuse of a minor and two counts of child pornography.
After his attorney negotiated a plea bargain, DeMatteis pleaded guilty to one count of sexual abuse and one count of child pornography, and was sentenced to one year in county jail and five years of probation.
The sentence came as a surprise to deputy DA Kathryn Francis, who asked for a sentence of six years in state prison. “The message to the community that there is not punishment for child molesters is unconscionable,” she said.
Maybe Newell should have thought about that when he signed off on the deal instead of taking the case to trial.