Stockton residents gather to take back park

1:05 AM, Sep 27, 2012   |    comments
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STOCKTON, CA - Gathered in Victory Park, about 250 Stockton residents listened to city leaders and learned about ways they can fight back against crime in what some call the city's "family room."

The Wednesday evening meeting had to be moved outside to accommodate a much-larger-than-xpected crowd.

"I'm just looking out here and this crowd is way beyond expectations of who would show up tonight," Stockton Police Chief Eric Jones said.

The meeting was called after two especially violent crimes in recent days that took one man's life and left a disabled man badly beaten. Armando Pina was shot to death during a robbery over a gold chain he was wearing.

The meeting opened with a prayer for Pina and then Stockton City Councilwoman Susan Eggman began with an appeal to fight back against crime.

"The good news is look at this community that has come together to say 'We will not tolerate this violence, this rampant violence in our town,'" Eggman told the gathering.

Jones began by going over what he said was the reality of the situation, including the 130 fewer officers on Stockton's streets compared to 2008. The department now has a total of 328 sworn officers and violent crime is up 17 percent.

Jones has proposed a series of new initiatives to attack the most violent offenders head-on, including special task forces that saturate the highest-crime neighborhoods.

"In just about eight months, they've already taken 600 guns off the streets. That's an enormous amount of guns," Jones said to applause from the crowd.

Jones urged an unprecedented level of cooperation between police and citizens. The city council has just approved "Project Ceasefire". The initiative will target the worst offenders, offering them help finding jobs and getting out of a criminal lifestyle, with a warning that if they don't go along, they'll face intense pressure from police.

Many at the meeting were encouraged.

"The important thing to me was getting the contacts and ways of getting feedback to the police department," resident Robert Reinarts said. "I think that was really very good."

Others said they were hoping even the most depressed and high-crime areas would get the same attention.

"I also want this to happen in other communities, not just here at the park, especially in the south, that's where I'm from," said Hortensia Perez, who encouraged the city to reach out to residents who do not speak English.

Others said they were hoping for the best, but believe it will take more officers on the streets to make a difference. Eggman agreed.

"A community standing firm, saying, 'We will not tolerate this, we see you, we see what you're doing and we will not tolerate it,'" she said to applause.


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