Irvine’s Little Police State

Kevin Drum links an LAT piece on the “charm” of Irvine, California, a “little planned community” that both conforms perfectly to Malvina Reynolds’ “Little Boxes” stereotype – with houses made out of ticky tacky that all look the same — and seems to make everyone who lives there feel safe and happy.   And, mostly, it is indeed quite charming.  But these passages strike me as a bit creepy, too:

On the street of two-story suburban homes, lined with jacarandas and palms and curbside recycling bins, a father and his 14-year-old son were arguing about water polo practice while he gave his other son a haircut in the garage.

Two police cars were on the scene within minutes.

Miller defused the situation with some gentle words to the father and son, smiling as he stood on the front lawn, looking more the part of mediator than hardened lawman.

The officer quickly typed the police code for “disturbance” in his patrol car’s computer: 415 over son not doing what dad wants. Verbal only. No crime.

[…]
Students who come to UC Irvine from urban areas are “blown away by the level of peaceableness that exists here,” said Currie, the criminology professor.

That is not to say serious crimes don’t occur.

But when that rare violent attack or homicide is recorded, the community is stunned and police react forcefully.

When a man walked into a home through an open garage on a recent afternoon, demanding cash from a woman at gunpoint, police dispatched more than 40 units, four police dogs and a helicopter before a suspect was collared. A neighboring grade school was put on lockdown.

It’s nice, I suppose, that crime levels are low enough for police to actually be in the business of prevention rather than post-hoc investigation.  But I’m not sure I want the cops to show up every time someone raises their voice.  Or to deploy helicopters and police dogs for muggings.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is a Security Studies professor at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. Spoker says:

    It’s nice, I suppose, that crime levels are low enough for police to actually be in the business of prevention rather than post-hoc investigation. But I’m not sure I want the cops to show up every time someone raises their voice. Or to deploy helicopters and police dogs for muggings.

    Then I would stronly suggest you not live here. For those of us that do, this is what we choose and are willing to pay taxes for.

  2. odograph says:

    I was down on Irivne in the 80’s (back when it was cool), and when the Agranistas began their rise, but even I will call the ‘ticky tacky’ thing a cheap shot.

    Say whatever else you will about town-sized planned communities, it didn’t work all that badly for the Irvinites. They did build a nice city, with green belts and parks, and median house prices which topped $800K (now $650K)

    ‘ticky tacky’ sounds like a comment from someone who didn’t get in at $300K (as old as Aesop).

  3. odograph says:

    (It would be a fairer cheap shot to say that Irvine helped invent the McMansion … not at all ‘ticky tacky’ in the postwar style.)

  4. I live in Irvine.

    I scream at my kids more or less hourly. My wife takes the half hour. Our kids give back at double the volume. The four of us all yell at the two dogs who bark at UPS men — even when there are no UPS men.

    So far no police.

    Irvine (nickname Irvanna) really is a rather perfect little city. There’s never any traffic. There’s plenty of bland and predictable food and shopping. The pools and parks are incredible. In the 8 months we’ve been here we’ve found nothing — absolutely nothing — to really hate. And I’m the guy who bailed on Tuscany after 8 months.

    So we are actively looking to move to Manhattan Beach or Laguna Beach. There are artists in Laguna, writers in Manhattan Beach. Irvine is a Flanders city and we’re a Simpsons family.

  5. floyd says:

    Stockholm Syndrome revisited!

  6. DC Loser says:

    I also lived in Irvine for a period in the mid-90s before moving to DC. I still have family in that area. It is a very pleasant city with a lot going for it. I remember the local paper (Irvine World News) back then touting the city’s distinction as the safest small size city in the country, which is not an insignificant distinction given its location within the greater LA region. It also has some of the best public schools in the region and is a great place to raise a family.

  7. odograph says:

    There’s plenty of bland and predictable food and shopping.

    My favorite Korean is on the south side of Walnut at Jeffery. I’m fairly hard core, but I only venture to “spicy” and not “very spicy.” JJ’s Bakery on Culver is good for red bean buns in the morning … I could go on.

  8. odograph says:

    I remember the local paper (Irvine World News) back then touting the city’s distinction as the safest small size city in the country, which is not an insignificant distinction given its location within the greater LA region.

    I was looking at a “where to retire” book this weekend, and saw that Irvine is still very near the top for safety. Mission Viejo edged it out though.

  9. Odo:

    I wasn’t dissing the bland food, not really. I have kids 9 and 12. They eat, let me just check the list, oh yes: nuggets.

    You’d think the 12 year old could watch the 9 year old while the wife and I go eat foods that would make our eyeballs boil (I like spicy) but no. It wouldn’t even be Cain and Abel, it would be Cain and Cain. And then the Irvine cops would have to come.

  10. By the way, just had an Irvine moment. I’m walking the dogs while smoking a cigar. (Ashton maduro for those who care.)

    An Asian couple running, sees me, they pause, they gather their courage and strength and rush past me holding their breath and waving their hands in the air like crazy people.

    Once safely past they make loud disgusted noises for about a block.

    Because the problem with the air here in Southern California is me.

  11. Steve Verdon says:

    Then I would stronly suggest you not live here. For those of us that do, this is what we choose and are willing to pay taxes for.

    Thank goodness we can keep it all contained in Irvine.

    Irvine is in Orange County by the way, a county that has traditionally been very conservative.

    I scream at my kids more or less hourly. My wife takes the half hour. Our kids give back at double the volume. The four of us all yell at the two dogs who bark at UPS men — even when there are no UPS men.

    So far no police.

    You must live in the bad part of Irvine. 🙂

    So we are actively looking to move to Manhattan Beach or Laguna Beach. There are artists in Laguna, writers in Manhattan Beach. Irvine is a Flanders city and we’re a Simpsons family.

    Haven’t been the Manhatten Beach much, but Laguna is very nice. Might want to look at other areas too like San Clemente, Dana Point, etc. Not sure what your commute is like though. I’ve got co-workers that live in Hunting Beach, they like it. And you’d have Dog Beach which is one of the few off leash beaches for dogs. And you’d be close to Garden Grove which has all kinds of Vietnamese restaruants. Plus you’d be closer to Los Angeles which is a Mecca for foreign food. Thai, Indian, Chinese, Mexican, Salvadoran, Ethiopian,….

    Oh, and on a Saturday if you guys are feeling adventerous, go to McArthur Park and hit Langers for an awesome pastrami sandwhich. I swear they must cut it with a machette. Or head over to Pico and La Brea and go to Roscoe’s Chicken and Waffles (sounds weird I know, but its good). Palms Thai in LA is very good, and the entertainment is interesting (a thai Elvis impersonator). The Farmer’s Market in LA is also a fun place to eat. All kinds of food for everyone, and right next to the Grove for shopping, people watching, or even catching a movie.

    But yeah, I’ll agree with ya…get out of Irvine. At 9:30 PM they roll up the streets and put them in the closet. Boring, boring, boring.

    Edit: I’ll add Dog Beach is actually worth a day trip by the way. Take the kids, the dogs, and an easy to cary easy-up, a cooler of food and drinks and you’re set. Let the kids swim, and play, throw the ball for the dogs till their ready to nap, then relax.

    And you might want to check out this place in Costa Mesa.

  12. Some of the criticism here of Irvine is interesting to me. From the descriptions given here it sounds great as a place to live to me. I prefer to seek out adventure on my schedule rather than have to deal with it all the time. For a lot of families, clean, pleasant, and boring holds a lot of appeal. What exactly is wrong with people choosing to live in such a community of that is what they want?

    If I have any criticism at all it may be that their police force is a little too big and has a few too many resources at their disposal for what they have to deal with. On the other hand, maybe these excess resources are effectively acting as a deterrent that makes it such a relatively crime free area.

  13. odograph says:

    You are right that people have choices Charles. I used to say that there couldn’t be an Irvine without a Costa Mesa, and there couldn’t be a Costa Mesa without an Irvine.

    (A classic Costa Mesa story is that a guy had a dozen old cars rusting in his overgrown front yard. The city sent him a citation to have them removed. He wrote back, “but they are my classic car collection, all Cadillacs.” The city wrote back “never mind.”)

  14. DC Loser says:

    There’s a large Chinese population in Irvine, and the quality of the food rivals that of the real mecca of Chinese food in the San Gabriel Valley about an hour away. For Mexican, Santa Ana is 5 miles away.

  15. DC Loser says:

    I was looking at a “where to retire” book this weekend, and saw that Irvine is still very near the top for safety. Mission Viejo edged it out though.

    When I lived there, I was commuting up the 405 to El Segundo. I looked at buying at the time, and went to see houses throughout southern OC and Huntington Beach. MV was on the wrong side of the infamous El Toro “Y” (where I-405 and I-5 merged from eight lanes to four, a really bad traffic bottleneck). Irvine was near all the major freeways allowing making the trip to LA very convenient. Actually, I’m looking at San Diego as the ideal retirement location. If only I can afford something near La Jolla or Del Mar.

  16. Steve Verdon says:

    There’s a large Chinese population in Irvine, and the quality of the food rivals that of the real mecca of Chinese food in the San Gabriel Valley about an hour away. For Mexican, Santa Ana is 5 miles away.

    Yes, that would be Moneterey Park I noted above. It is in LA county, in the San Gabriel Valley.

  17. The Strategic MC says:

    I’m walking the dogs while smoking a cigar. (Ashton maduro for those who care.)…

    Great taste in cigars, btw.

    Down the coast in S.D., I often get the same treatment when I take my Ashton Cabinet #8 out for a walk.

  18. If only I can afford something near La Jolla or Del Mar.

    I suppose you have to define “near”, but I think you can buy a whole town in some parts of Kansas or Nebraska for less.

  19. sam says:

    So we are actively looking to move to Manhattan Beach or Laguna Beach.

    On the pace of change…

    Once when I was in the Marines, I was hitchhiking back to Camp Pendelton and caught a ride with this old fellow just on the other side of El Toro (glad the MPs didn’t catch me–hitchhiking was a no-no). Anyway, we’re tooling south on the Santa Ana Freeway and he’s telling me how much things have changed around here. “Why,” he said, “I used to drive the stagecoach between Laguna and Santa Ana.”

  20. tom p says:

    From the descriptions given here it sounds great as a place to live to me. I prefer to seek out adventure on my schedule rather than have to deal with it all the time. For a lot of families, clean, pleasant, and boring holds a lot of appeal.

    Charles, I would agree except for the fact that life is what happens between the lines. It sounds to me like in Irvine (I have never been there), there is no between the lines… I find that a little sad.

  21. some guy says:

    Or to deploy helicopters and police dogs for muggings.

    Unless of course it happened to your wife or teenage daughter.

  22. CR says:

    Armed home invasion is a little more serious than a mugging, or is likely to be perceived as more serious by most of the public. In some state (I don’t know about California) they’re different crimes statutorily.

    Think about how you would feel if your next door neighbor told you she had her purse taken while she was out for a walk. Then think about how you would feel if your next door neighbor was robbed at gunpoint in her own home.

  23. tom p says:

    Armed home invasion is a little more serious than a mugging,

    In my neck of the woods, it usually results in a body recovery (and usually the invaders)