‘Know your neighborhood criminal’: Grass Valley man uses social media to identify ‘repeat offenders’
Nevada County residents concerned about a perceived spike in crime in the area have lately made their voices heard through multiple outlets, including Grass Valley city council meetings, Facebook groups geared toward locals, and meetings of the newly-formed “Citizens for Safe Parks.”
Many have complained about changes caused by California’s Proposition 47, which reduced some felony drug charges and other crimes to misdemeanors, effectively reducing the penalties for many criminal offenses.
One Grass Valley man has taken matters into his own hands in an effort to identify repeat offenders whom he said are not incarcerated for theft or trespassing as a result of the passage of Prop. 47.
Ehud Gat creates posts on a Facebook group called “Nevada County Happening Now,” which feature links to the Facebook profiles of individuals whom he says are repeat offenders. The posts also may include the full names of the subjects and some identifying information about them, such as height, approximate age and crimes they’ve allegedly committed.
Some of Gat’s posts begin with the phrase, “Know your neighborhood criminal.”
“People forget that the whole idea of incarceration isn’t just to punish for past crimes, but also to protect society from those who would do society harm,” Gat said.
When criminals are not incarcerated, Gat said, the result is “just an increase in crime. People are not feeling safe.” He said people have “the right to know who is threatening them at this time.”
Gat works as a private security officer for a business in downtown Grass Valley.
“I got to know a lot of these people through my job,” he said. “But it really has nothing to do with the job. At this point, the legal system here in California is not protecting people, so we have to protect ourselves.”
Gat said he’s received a range of responses to his posts.
“A lot of people were very grateful,” he said.
But others haven’t been so kind. He said some people have even threatened him over the internet.
“I’ve had people tell me I need to watch my back,” he said.“I had a guy who told me that if I put the wrong name out there I’m going to be made to disappear.”
He said he doesn’t let the threats deter him.
“People are going to threaten,” he said. “That’s their problem, not mine. If anyone has a problem with seeing their name being posted like that, maybe they shouldn’t commit crime.”
Gat said he’s made four posts on “Nevada County Happening Now” identifying “repeat criminals,” based on his own knowledge.
“It’s knowledge, not conjectures or assumptions,” he said.
He said he only identifies people who he knows are actively committing crimes, rather than people who committed crimes far in the past.
“The first guy I named in those posts — just a week later, he gets arrested for stealing a car,” he said. “Shortly after, he was out on bond and out there on the street again. And this is distressing. You have a person with a very high likelihood to reoffend, and there he is out on the street again.”
Gat said he’s concerned about the amount of crime he sees in Grass Valley, and he contests the claim made by Grass Valley Police Chief Alex Gammelgard, who told The Union last month that local statistics show that levels of reported crime haven’t increased over the past five years.
‘Incomplete’ crime data?
“The statistics aren’t based on any complete data,” Gat said. “If you base stats only on crime that has actually been addressed — that ended up with calls for service, citations or arrests — then you’re not getting the right picture. I think crime has been on the rise in California mainly since 2014 — since Prop. 47.”
Gat said there are places in Grass Valley where he wouldn’t walk alone, which wasn’t the case in previous years.
“I can only give you the evidence of my own eyes. I see a lot more theft, a lot more trespassing, a lot more blatant disrespect towards the consequences of having the police called on you,” he said.
Gat said the idea behind the posts isn’t to incite vigilante justice. He said he is against someone taking violent action against a person Gat identified on Facebook. He posts because “people have the right to know who it is that’s running around their backyards or businesses and stealing from them.”
Gammelgard said there’s an important balance to strike when it comes to identifying criminals in a public space.
“I think it’s important to recognize that, for an individual, when now they’re potentially put out there as this bad person — and, in fact, they might be — that it would be very hard for them to shake that in the future if they ever were to change,” he said in a July interview. “But at the same time, for every time they’ve committed a crime, there’s a victim who feels very violated.”
Gammelgard said society as a whole is grappling with transparency in today’s world, where more information is available to the public than ever before.
“I just think it’s important that people think about it before they do it,” Gammelgard said, “because there may be times when it’s appropriate and there may be times when it’s not.”
To contact Staff Writer Matthew Pera, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 530-477-4231.
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