SACRAMENTO, Calif. (KTXL) — How do you prevent crises from happening in the first place?
This is a question community advocates and police chiefs have asked for decades, and the good answers have been few.
This week, Sacramento’s city council members voted unanimously to approve a resolution looking at safety from a grassroots perspective, incorporating prevention and youth services.
With the group Public Health Advocates leading more than 20 organizations, the effort to get the council to back this concept has been underway for a year.
“It was really a matter of trying everything we could… and for the city to prioritize mental health in our community,” said Monica Mares of Youth Forward, calling the resolution “groundwork” for future action.
“I would say the resolution really begins a conversation of what safety means in our community,” she said.
Sacramento District 4 councilwoman-elect Katie Valenzuela said public safety doesn’t simply mean calling 911.
“For me, public safety are youth playing at the park, kids going into training programs, having access to mental health and counselors,” she said. “It doesn’t mean not having someone respond; it’s about reducing that need for response in the first place.”
For critics who worry about the resolution “hog-tying” law enforcement, Valenzuela said that’s another conversation starter of what situations require police intervention.
“We’ve asked a lot of our police. We ask them to respond to homelessness, to mental health issues, to be on our school campuses to essentially act as counselors and mediators, and that’s not what they were trained for,” Valenzuela said. “That’s not the most cost-effective method for us to make our community safer.”