Community deserves a justice system that gets

Last month several Susanville citizens appeared during the public comment portion of the city council’s meeting to complain about the increasing crime in the city and law enforcement’s failure to respond to the challenges these residents say they face every day from the thieves, robbers, meth heads, drug houses, drug dealers and other undesirable criminal types plaguing their neighborhoods.

Both John King, Susanville’s police chief, and Stacey Montgomery, Lassen County’s district attorney, have put much of the blame on recent voter-approved state propositions that reduced the severity of some possible charges from felonies to misdemeanors which also reduces the amount of time these criminals will serve even if they are eventually convicted. Montgomery has also complained about Lassen County Superior Court Judge Tony Mallery and some unreasonable public defenders she claims make excessive discovery demands the judge then approves.

Just this week, a North County resident who declined to identify himself, complained to the newspaper about the level of crime in the North County and the lack of response from the Lassen County Sheriff ’s Office and the judicial system.

When asked about the caller’s concern Lassen County Sheriff Dean Growdon said there has been an increase in crime all across the county, and his office is constantly working on strategies to deal with the problem. While there apparently is a significant upsurge in crime, Growdon said the inmate population at the jail is perhaps at its all-time low, and he doesn’t know why. For an answer, perhaps readers should consider the events surrounding two incidents that occurred in Susanville over the 4th of July weekend.

On Sunday, July 2, a fire broke out behind the Courthouse Café on Riverside Drive that damaged the café, two attorney’s offices and the Sierra Central Credit Union office. Early the next day the owners of JH Heating on Main Street reported their business had been burglarized over the weekend.

Samuel Lima, 26, of Susanville was arrested in connection with both incidents. In two separate cases, the DA charged him with arson and burglary in the first, and attempted second-degree burglary and vandalism in the second.

If Lima’s name sounds familiar, you’re absolutely right. He was arrested by Susanville police officers Sept. 9, 2016 and initially charged with burglary, possession of burglary tools, possession of stolen property, carrying a concealed firearm without a license and selling a firearm without a license after he allegedly burglarized Honey Lake Firearms on Main Street. Consequently, the DA filed petty theft and vandalism charges in the case, and those charges were dismissed Nov. 22, 2016. Lima also has a forgery case pending.

When he missed a mandatory court appearance for arraignment May 18, the matter was referred to the DA, and, according to the court’s website, that office has not yet responded — nearly two months later — and an arrest warrant for failure to appear has not been issued.