Former Anderson mayor Keith Webster and two other residents on East Bailey Drive in Anderson spoke briefly at the Anderson City Council meeting Tuesday, Aug. 20, regarding a problem in the neighborhood and an apparent lack of interest by Anderson Police Department (APD).
“We have a drug house there,” Webster said.
For nearly two years, members of the neighborhood have noticed frequent and sometimes all-hour activity of numerous vehicles of all types stopping briefly at the house for quick transactions, Webster recounted.
About six or eight weeks ago, Webster said he noticed a black Lexus parked in front of his own property that fronts the narrow lane and across from the alleged criminal activity.
“I was really scared because when I went out to the car and asked the occupant to move his vehicle, he exited the car wearing a red bandanna,” noted Webster, who served several years with law enforcement officials from throughout the county on the Youth Violence Prevention Council, a multi-agency group that seeks to mitigate gang influence and impacts within the community.
Members of the Bloods, a notorious street gang, wear red bandannas. Red is also a color associated with the Norteños (Northern California), aligned with the prison-led gang La Nuestra Familia, state several Web sites devoted to helping citizens recognize suspicious activity or persons.
Webster told council members he personally drove down to the Anderson Police Department on North Street to report the incident and was advised to call the Shasta Inter-Agency Narcotics Task Force (SINTF).
“We really need our police department to be more proactive about situations such as this,” Webster concluded.
Following Webster at the council podium was Tami Baudizzon, a former narcotics task force dispatcher with more than 25 years of service.
“There is a meth house on our street. Having worked in law enforcement, I fully understand the politics of all this,” Baudizzon said.
When citizens attempt to report criminal activity to local law enforcement, “(W)e are blatantly being told to call SINTF. That leaves citizens with the impression that Anderson Police Department personnel consider this is not our problem,” Baudizzon said.
“It is everybody’s problem. The addicted meth users are the ones who break into our homes and steal our things. It is everybody’s problem because I have a 10-year-old daughter who plays on that street,” Baudizzon said.
Recently, when a search warrant was served at that house, no less than five APD officers showed up, each wearing a bulletproof vest,” she noted.
“How many of my neighbors wear a bulletproof vest? Is my daughter supposed to wear a bulletproof vest when she walks to and from school?” Baudizzon asked rhetorically.
“I just want something a little bit more responsive than it’s not my problem,” she added.
Wayne Leonhardt, also a resident on East Bailey Drive in Anderson, was the final citizen to speak on the matter.
“Isn’t there something that we can do about this other than just to ignore it and let it continue to go on,” Leonhardt stated.
Several noticeable seconds of silence followed the presentation until Mayor James Yarbrough, who had his head bowed during the presentation, slowly raised it to look at the citizens.
“I know it is very disturbing,” Yarbrough stated, seemingly at a loss for other words.
City Manager Jeff Kiser quickly motioned Anderson Police Chief Michael Johnson to a chair and microphone and asked Johnson to respond.
“I am very sorry that you have gotten the impression that you should just call SINTF,” Johnson said.
“We have been making a concerted case on this house. Unfortunately, with AB 109 in effect and the quick release of people who are arrested, it is very troubling to us as well,” the police chief said.
Since the owner of the home died, the residence is tied up in probate proceedings and several of the owner’s siblings are residing in the house, Johnson noted.
“I do have a friend who works on policing problems such as this. In a similar situation, he was able to convince neighbors to file a class action lawsuit. Everyone who signs up” for the civil action can file for up to $5,000 in damages, Johnson said.
“But don’t take what I say for gospel. This is just infinite information. I am just in the beginning stages on researching this,” he added.
Johnson noted that under the city’s agreement for centralized dispatching, citizens should make all their reports of suspected criminal activity to Shasta Area Safety Communications Agency (SHASCOM) by calling 245-6526.
“I am certainly sympathetic to your situation over there. I am not turning a blind eye to your problem. We just do not have enough tracking evidence” of drug sales such as cars pulling up, he said.
Mayor Yarbrough disagreed.
“I think we need to hit it and hit it hard. That way, the word will get out,” Yarbrough said.
“We need to get back to a problem-oriented policing so that we can take back our neighborhoods, not just one house at a time,” Johnson said in response to Yarbrough’s closing comment on the issue.