Improbable Claim That Fontana Is California’s 17th Safest City, With Killer Stalking Innocents Loose

Even as a deadly criminal of unknown intent and intensity stalks victims from around 42.43-square mile Fontana and its 9.97-square mile unincorporated area, city officials and the Fontana Police Department are seeking to minimize the danger posed to local citizens by crime.
Featured prominently on the city’s website this month is a press release which states, “A new national report ranks the City of Fontana as one of the safest cities in California, underscoring the city council’s commitment to public safety and quality of life.”
According to the press release, “The report, by Safewise, ranks Fontana 17th among cities in California, with violent crime (2.8 incidents per 1,000 population) and property crime (13 per 1,000) both well below the state averages (4.2 and 25.3 per 1,000). No other city in San Bernardino County ranks higher than Fontana in the Safewise report.”
The press release goes on to make clear that the entire release is attributed to the city council, consisting of Mayor Acquanetta Warren, Councilman John Roberts, City Councilman Jesse Sandoval, City councilman Phil Cothran, Jr. and City Councilman Peter Garcia.
“This validates what we, as a city council, have pledged to do: Make Fontana a safe and healthy city for all of our residents,” the press release quotes Mayor Warren as saying. “Our investments in staffing, our use of technology and the exceptional work our Police Department does in connecting with the community have made a model for doing public safety the right way.”
The claims of safety come amidst a troubling indication that an individual is, or individuals are, at large in the Fontana community who have engaged in murder and have not been caught.
Fontana has for the last six decades had a reputation as one of the most lawless areas in San Bernardino County. Contributing to the problem is the bifurcation of the community into an incorporated city, which has been in existence in that form since 1952, and its surrounding unincorporated county area, also referred to as Fontana. While the city is patrolled by the municipal police department, the unincorporated county area lies within the jurisdiction of the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department. Often, criminals committing crimes or partcipating in mayhem within the city have taken refuge in the unincorporated area. Criminals plaguing the unincorporated area are equally likely to fade into the woodwork within the city. The circumstance is exacerbated by another jurisdictional divide, that being the Riverside County line south of Fontana. Outlaws plying their trade in either incorporated or unincorporated Fontana often reside or originate in Riverside County.
Gang activity flourishes in Fontana, which is the birthplace of both the Hells Angels and the Devils Diciples, both of which are credited with being outlaw motorcycle clubs.
There have been suggestions going back to the 1950s that the city’s political leadership has been getting in on the take from illegal activity in a multitude of ways. An element in this has been the virtually unbridled growth of the community. Rather than allowing law enforcement agencies to get a handle on the circumstance, members of the Fontana City Council going back nearly four generations have allowed for continuing residential, commercial and industrial expansion, creating an ever-expanding backdrop within which criminals and members of the underworld can function without being detected or caught. In the 1970s and 1980s, highly questionable deal-making took place between then-City Manager Jack Ratelle and a succession of police chiefs, including Joe Uhalley and Ben Abernathy, in which payoffs to the mayor and members of the city council and Ratelle himself went uninvestigated in exchange for salary and benefit increases for the sworn members of the police department.
Questions about the inherent honesty of the current political leadership in the city continue. Reports persist about bribes greasing the skids to allow developers to proceed with their projects in ways that are contrary to the interests of the city’s residents.
Some are questioning how it is that in a city where few are willing to venture out alone during the day, let alone at night, could have been determined to be the 17th safest city among California’s 482 municipalities.
Safewise – – is more of a product promotion website than it is a clearinghouse for crime statistics. Safewise is a platform for the sale of home security devices, medical alert systems, apartment security systems, internet security, senior citizen security, pet safety, gas leak detectors, fire detectors, carbon monoxide detectors, fire suppression, fire extinguishers and the like. It is a money making enterprise, for whom Rebecca Edwards is the lead safety reporter and in-house expert. There is a suggestion that Safewise, for a price, will engage in advertorials, that is selling coverage to those willing to pay for it.
The Sentinel could not find any indication in its check registry that it had purchased coverage from Safewise or its affiliated companies.
Nevertheless, according to Safewise itself, “Last year we didn’t have enough reliable data to calculate crime rates or rank cities for The Golden State, so we won’t be able to share year over year comparisons on crime rates.”
According to the Safewise website, at present, in 2014 Fontana’s population stands at 212,730. Its violent crime rate in 2024, 2023 and 2022 stood at 2.8 per 1,000, which it said is lower than the national average of 3.1 per thousand. Fontana’s property crime rate for 2024, 2023 and 2022, according to Safewise, was 13.0 per thousand, which was higher than the national average of 11.6.
Safewise provided those statistics, saying it had insufficient reliable data to calculate crime ranking for California’s cities.
Rancho Santa Margarita was rated No. 1 in the state by Safewise, followed by Aliso Viejo. Residents in Rancho Santa Margarita and Aliso Viejo, both located in Orange County, are major customers for the devices sold on the Safewise website.
The press release states, “Fontana’s high safety rankings come as the city continues to grow – now with a population of more than 212,000,” before quoting Fontana Police Chief Michael Dorsey as saying, “As the Police Chief of Fontana, I am immensely proud of our city’s recognition as one of the safest in California. This accomplishment is a testament to the dedication of our officers and the strong partnerships we’ve forged with our community. Our commitment to proactive policing, innovative technologies, and community engagement continues to foster an environment where safety and quality of life are paramount. We remain steadfast in our mission to serve and protect every resident of Fontana,” said Fontana Police Chief Michael Dorsey.”
According to the press release, “Part of Fontana’s success is the civic engagement of the Police Department. One prominent example is the Fontana Police Department Chief’s Roundtable, community volunteers from each of the four geographical beats of the City who meet monthly with the chief to express concerns or ask questions. Quarterly community meetings with residents, easy online access to monthly crime statistics and various volunteer programs that encourage residents to be vigilant about what is happening in their community all contribute to Fontana’s growing reputation as not just a fast-growing city, but a safe one as well.”
The Fontana Herald News quickly reacted to the press release, running on April 23 an article headlined, “Fontana is ranked one of the safest cities in California, report says,” accompanied by article headlined “Fontana saw a decrease in the number of crimes in 2023, according to Fontana P.D.”
This mimics an interaction between the city, its police department and another website purporting to deal in crime statistics in 2020.
The sanguine image of Fontana provided by Safewise conflicts with that put out by, which gave Fontana a D+ grade.
“The D+ grade means the rate of crime is higher than the average US city. Fontana is in the 25th percentile for safety, meaning 75% of cities are safer and 25% of cities are more dangerous. This analysis applies to Fontana’s proper boundaries only.”
According to, “The rate of crime in Fontana is 60.49 per 1,000 residents during a standard year. People who live in Fontana generally consider the west part of the city to be the safest. A crime occurs every 38 minutes on average in Fontana. Your chance of being a victim of crime in Fontana may be as high as 1 in 13 in the east neighborhoods, or as low as 1 in 28 in the west part of the city.”
Information available to the Sentinel is that Fontana acknowledged eight homicides within the city limits of Fontana in 2020, all of which were solved. Fontana acknowledged three homicides in 2021, all of which were solved. In 2022, the city had nine homicides, according to then-Police Chief Billy Green. In 2023, there were eight acknowledged murders in the city.
There have been a string of murders, possibly extending back to 2019, in which it is suspected the bodies have been moved from the point of death, investigators and other knowledgeable entities report. Some of these included, the Sentinel was told, killings done in Fontana or in its sphere of influence.
It does not appear that these murders are among those acknowledged by the police department. They many involve a suspect, a serial killer, who is purposefully altering the crime scene and leaving the victims in places where investigators are unable to determine with definitude their relationship to one another or whether the perpetrator is one and the same. Acknowledgment of the murders could, it is said, endanger the investigation, which is said to involve no fewer than six agencies.

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