Last week, The National Council for Home Safety and Security named the city of Tehachapi as the safest city in Kern County and the 44th-safest city in California in its 2019 “Safest Cities in California” report.
In determining the rankings, the council reviewed the most recent FBI uniform crime report statistics along with the police adequacy variable, which relates total crimes to the number of police employees. The report notes the smaller the police adequacy statistic is, the safer the city is. Both scores were combined to determine the rankings.
Tehachapi ranked 44th out of the 265 ranked California cities named in the report, the highest among all other cities in Kern County.
The role public safety plays in economic development cannot be understated. Many economic development corporations and partnerships throughout California tout their region’s record as a safe place to live and do business in their online materials to entice new business owners to their area.
Nationally, economic development trends tend to follow those of public safety. In a few of the nation’s most economically challenged cities, public safety has led the charge for economic recovery. In Paterson, New Jersey, Mayor Andre Sayegh has been helping lead the area’s recovery for years as a council member and now mayor. He recently told WPIX in New York, “If you address public safety, economic development will follow.”
Similarly in Camden, New Jersey, a recent report stated that after 50 years of social and economic decline, Camden is experiencing a renaissance. The new policing initiatives launched focused on a community-based approach with priority to build community relationships, which have led to a reduction in crime and driving outside investments into Camden.
In Dallas, the city’s efforts to pursue a new headquarters for Nokia was met with some questioning as the ability to police the neighborhood where the development was proposed was brought up. The questions were valid — would the employees feel safe in an area that was going to increase by 2,300 employees and potential for growth in the next several years?
Fortunately for Tehachapi, this wasn’t a major turnaround from a public safety standpoint, but combined with award-winning policing and investigative tactics, a prioritization of public safety and economic development efforts, the climate is safe for investors and employees.
Additionally, economic development benefits law enforcement as increased sales tax dollars keep public safety budgets strong and with the ability to expand as the needs of the community increase. Without that nexus, many cities must first work to attract sales tax generators before investing in policing. In Tehachapi, that relationship has growth reasonably, together.
In the last 10 years, sales tax in Tehachapi has grown 49 percent. In relation, expenditures invested by the city into public safety have increased 32 percent during that same time frame. Also, as major retailers and other large-scale projects enter the community, there are oftentimes public safety costs and fees associated with the applications to ensure both the investments and the community are protected at an appropriate level.
Not unlike many others in the state that are awarded status as safe cities, Tehachapi will use that distinction as a major benefit for those looking to invest in our community. Taking advantage of one important quality of life factor to assist those looking to bring investments that benefit the community as a whole.
Corey Costelloe is the assistant to the city manager in Tehachapi, his hometown. Among his many duties in Tehachapi, Costelloe oversees the city’s economic development efforts, which balances supporting small businesses while addressing the raised economic profile of a community that is attracting corporate partners. A 2002 graduate of Point Loma Nazarene University in San Diego, he earned his master’s in public administration with honors in 2016 from CSU Bakersfield.