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Davis, California

Friday, May 24, 2024

‘It wasn’t prioritized at the highest level’: Davis police chief addresses tip received two hours before third stabbing

Tuesday’s regularly planned city council meeting cleared its agenda to discuss ongoing crimes and the city’s plan to protect the unhoused community




City council met yesterday to discuss the most recent developments in the three stabbing incidents and what actions are being taken to provide support for the unhoused community during these times.

The meeting occurred one day after a third stabbing incident in one week left a 64-year-old woman in critical condition. The victim, currently unnamed, was an unhoused individual living in a homeless encampment near 2nd and L Streets. She is currently in critical but stable condition after undergoing surgery, according to Davis Police Chief Darren Pytel. 

At the meeting, Pytel discussed a tip that the Davis Police Department received two hours before the third stabbing. The tip was provided by a local unhoused person who thought they saw an individual at the homeless encampment near 2nd and L who matched the suspect profile given after the second homicide.

“We did receive a call from people in that area reporting that they thought that they saw somebody that matched the description of the suspect in the second homicide,” Pytel said. “The description that was provided was rather vague and the information was rather vague, other than [that] the person was near their camps and appeared to be hiding behind trees at times. Based on the information provided […] it wasn’t prioritized at the highest level. And as it turns out, it’s likely that the information was accurate and that probably was the suspect.” 

Pytel discussed the likelihood that the stabbings are linked, stating it was “more probable than not.” Pytel said the connection between the two homicides and the third stabbing is that attacks were “particularly brutal in nature,” leading investigators to believe it is very possible the same person committed all three crimes.

Pytel shared some of the goals Davis police and supporting agencies have established so far. He said that it’s a priority to increase police presence and security in the city and to respond in a more timely manner to tips from residents. He shared that police have received a large number of tips, many of which are reporting people that match the suspect’s description.

Pytel talked about the idea of a city-wide curfew, stating that he doesn’t believe it would be a good use of resources at this time. 

“In circumstances like this, what that would look like is basically shutting down our city and closing down our businesses and requiring people to be at home at certain times,” Pytel said. “[…] I don’t think it’s a good use of resources to try and enforce a curfew. I would rather that people are out and about in numbers and one of our biggest preventions of crime is what we call displacement.” 

Mayor Will Arnold then invited the council to ask Pytel any questions they had. Councilmember Bapu Vaitla asked about Davis’s lack of lighting, particularly in parks, which has been a concern for many members of the community.

“How feasible or effective would temporary lighting in parks and/or surveillance cameras be?” Vaitla asked. 

 Pytel responded that they should set up temporary cameras at certain locations and that as things change, he might make additional suggestions. Pytel said the issue is more complicated than it might seem. 

“Crime requires light. And so when you have dark areas, people need to use flashlights in order to be able to see,” Pytel said. “Flashlights stick out like a sore thumb in the middle of the night. […] Some of our advice is stay in the well-lighted areas and avoid some of the dark areas. It’s kind of double-edged depending on the issue.”

The city also unveiled its Unsheltered Community Plan at the meeting, which will provide approximately two dozen emergency beds and meals to unhoused people who wish to be sheltered indoors. The plan, in partnership with Davis Community Meals, will provide shelter at Paul’s Place and at its location on 5th Street.

Dana Bailey, the director of social services and housing for the city, stated at the meeting that the city has activated a crisis response network and reached out to service providers for help. The city has mainly been surveying how it can best serve the unhoused population at this time. 

Bailey then went on to state the unhoused community is “really afraid right now” and “we want to be careful about reaching out to them” because “it’s hard for them when strangers reach out.” Bailey instead encouraged people who want to help the unhoused community at this time to work with local organizations. 

“The members of our community who are experiencing homelessness […] these are our fellow community members,” Mayor Arnold said. “We’re so fortunate to have […] this piece of our community, all of us working in unison to try to make sure this violence stops.”

For more information on how to help the Davis unhoused community please visit the Davis Community Meals and Housing website at https://daviscommunitymeals.org or reach the CommuniCare Daytime Respite Center at 530-758-0354.


Written By: Hannah Schrader and Chris Ponce city@theaggie.org