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The California Central Valley, from Redding to Bakersfield, is very often ignored in discussions of the Golden State even though it plays a powerful role in state politics and other aspects of state life. Recently the Public Policy Institute of California released another in a series of studies of how Central Valley residents view the quality of their life. The Special Survey of the Central Valley (June 2006), by Mark Baldassare, finds that Valley residents feel the most important issues facing the region are pollution and air pollution, cited by 14%, followed closely by crime at 12%.
Public perception of gangs, drugs and crime is of greater concern to Latinos than the population as a whole. It is not clear whether these data differ all that much from the state as a whole; there is also not wide variation in perceptions of gangs, drugs and crime by Valley subregion.
If you've travelled in the Central Valley recently it is plainly obvious to anyone who has lived in the area for long that the air pollution there has become horrible. If you've driven there from the San Francisco area it is also pretty obvious that a lot of that pollution is brought there from traffic on the coast by ocean breezes. Thus, Valley residents are mainly victims of coastal traffic pollution. Most coastal residents don't have to live with their automobile pollution.
Both pollution and crime fall directly into the field of criminology, since pollution directly relates to legal enforcement of environmental regulations (which are difficult to interpret and enforce) and concern with crime is self-evident. What is helpful about the findings of this study is how much they reveal Valley residents feel that pollution affects their health--for example, fully 45% of residents feel that air pollution is a big problem, and an additional 37% feel it is somewhat of a problem, for a total of 82%. Fully seventy percent (70%) believe that air pollution is a threat to their health or to someone in their family. Concern is greatest among residents in the Southern San Joaquin Valley closely followed by those in the Northern San Joaquin Valley. Do you think you can trust people to know when pollution may be directly affecting their health? When it comes to respiratory problems the answer would have to be yes.