The City of Stockton is showing dramatic results in reducing crime. With homicides down 60 percent, armed robberies down 28 percent, and overall violent crime down 16.8 percent in the first half of 2013, many are asking how the city did it.
“The key to our success here in Stockton is that we didn’t think in the box. We fought to get our results by any means necessary,” says Mayor Anthony Silva.
Due to financial constraints, Stockton had been laying off police, and city government was in conflict with its own police department. Some government officials claimed the police were the reason the city was heading towards bankruptcy.
Elected in November 2012, Mayor Silva placed the safety of his constituents as his top priority. He reached out to former Police Chief of Los Angeles and former Police Commissioner for New York City and Boston William Bratton.
Bratton reinforced the message that without strategic suppression and targeted arrests, a city cannot reduce crime and control behavior. He believed cops matter and that smart policing matters.
This approach to the problem worked for Stockton. The police department focused on illegal guns and gangs and improved community relations.
As city resources grew scarce, Neighborhood Watch groups flourished. The police worked closely with the groups, and that became crucial, along with a partnership with federal agencies, such as the U.S. Marshals and the FBI.
Together, they were able to go after the 20 percent of the criminals who were responsible for 80 percent of the homicides.
The Stockton Police Department gained 37 officers this year and is expecting another 17 relatively soon. However, Mayor Silva says there is still a long way to go.
Stockton needs to continue to focus on keeping the arrest rate high, stopping even minor offenses like graffiti and littering. At the county level, Stockton needs the jail problem to get fixed.
There must be extra beds available to incarcerate prisoners who cannot be safely allowed to be on the streets.
“Stockton has had incredible gains in reducing crime, and a high arrest rate will sustain that reduction,” said Silva.
“When this is done, I will prioritize crime prevention programs in Stockton. But right now we need every precious dollar going to making my city safe.
“Safety first. That is the foundation on which we can rebuild our city.”