Today’s paper includes this story on Jessica Glynn, the manager of Stockton’s brand-new Office of Violence Prevention.
On Monday, The Record spent some time with Glynn, City Manager Kurt Wilson and Chief of Police Eric Jones. Here’s some of what was asked and said:
WHAT UNIQUE CHALLENGES DOES STOCKTON FACE?
GLYNN: ”I think that getting more into the Ceasefire initiative and looking at what the problem analysis has told us of crimes committed in Stockton as opposed to those in neighboring cities like Oakland or Salinas … we don’t have these localized places of crime, neighborhoods where you can just expect crime to happen. It really permeates the entire city or happens throughout the city so that’s different and I think that our approach has been different. The systems of violence … we have this type of violence everywhere and since the dawn of humanity have had violence, but what makes Stockton unique is it’s not quite as localized as some cities.”
JONES: ”A lot of the root causes of crime are the same … but one of our highly unique situations in Stockton is that our crime hot spots are dispersed through the city, from north to south, east to west. I’ve mentioned the term checkerboard before … there’s no one bad side of the tracks. Even Oakland has much more concentrated areas. A lot of that goes back to how migratory some of our street gangs are but also just a lot of multi-housing high-density areas in town are spread out throughout the city also. You could probably overlay those and you’ll find some similarities.”
WILSON ON WHAT THE CITY WAS LOOKING FOR AS IT CONDUCTED THE SEARCH THAT RESULTED IN GLYNN’S HIRING: “The subject matter on one hand is academic. On the other hand, it’s more visceral. We’re trying to save lives and the future of the city. We have this real combination of those two things. The other challenge was, because it was being started from scratch, it’s not as if we could say, ‘Hey, Jessica come on in, here’s the policy manual, just read this and do what it says.’ In many respects, while we have the finish line sort of identified, we’re also asking her to navigate through the rest of the process, figuring out how it fits within a regular traditional municipal structure but still meets our needs. That person needed to also be able to kind of bob and weave to create something that’s going to be sustainable for the long haul.
“One of the things that stood out really was in her background. At first blush, you could look at it and say, ‘Well, it’s very broad, it’s kind of all over,’ which is good because this office is dealing with things that are really from A to Z. On the one hand it’s making that connection with the folks who need the services the most, the people who are the neediest and the most vulnerable within our whole community. On the other hand it’s having conversations with the most elite of our community and even those outside of our community in order to connect some of those dots. The common thread throughout all of her background was the passion. So there was a true link within each of those positions that demonstrated a clear passion for the people who were the most vulnerable, the people who were the most needy, the people who we’re trying right here the hardest to effect.”
GLYNN ON HOW SHE CHOSE HER CAREER PATH: “I was raised in a very liberal, progressive community (in Madison, Wis.) that valued engagement and I feel really fortunate to have had that experience. It was always kind of what you did. When I was in college I did a lot of community organizing work and worked with a youth program called Sustain Us that is involving youth in sustainable development initiatives at the United Nations and high-level decision-making bodies.
“I had thought that I, too, would be a biologist like my husband and went to college intending to study science and realized there’s much more interest in people. So that was kind of the direction it took, and I ended up with a focus in international development and economic development. I went to Kosovo and worked with women’s organizations postwar, where they weren’t at the table. I was there for about a year. There were still bombings often. The country was still rebuilding.
“I think the common thread of all of the work that I did was involving people in the decision-making processes and involving people who traditionally aren’t at the table in having a say in the way their communities are led. I think that’s a big part of what Marshall Plan and Ceasefire are trying to do is take the work that is perhaps being done in these very different places, whether in county institutions or within the city or police department and with the community-based organizations and clergy and bringing people together to find these solutions to crime and systems of crime, systems of violence.”
WILSON ON THE IMPORTANCE OF HAVING A POINT PERSON TO OVERSEE THE CITY’S LONG-RANGE ANTI-VIOLENCE EFFORTS: “When something is hot and heavy politically, it’s easy to put resources to it and pay attention to it and then as things change, the political winds shift or whatever the new crisis of the day is, we tend to move on to those other things. When we do that, which is similar to what happened last time we did Ceasefire, the results are not good, and because the whole concept here is the long-term, the systemic portion of our crime issue, it’s very important that we don’t just turn it on for a little while, then turn it off, turn it on, turn it off, so by having that point person who is able to really focus her efforts on that thing it increases the opportunities and the chances that we’re going to be able to really stick with this for the long haul.
“One of the reasons that crime is so high and that we need things like the Marshall Plan is that some of those underground things that haven’t been at the top of the priority list were allowed to fester for a long time. We allowed a culture that can benefit greatly from having those changes. The things that Jessica and her team do aren’t necessarily going to change the headlines tomorrow. Some of the benefits that we’re going to see five years from now, 10 years from now, whether or not people recognize it, will be attributed to the work that she and her team have done.”
GLYNN ON WHAT SHE HAS LEARNED ABOUT STOCKTON IN HER BRIEF TIME HERE: “You have an incredibly involved community in a way that may not seem immediately obvious from headlines. What’s been surprising coming from another place and only knowing what’s available online and in the media is that people have been working and work very hard to make Stockton a safe community and to be a great place to live. That needs to be perhaps a headline or it needs to be brought to the surface a little bit more because only hearing the terrible things that are happening in any community can be demoralizing and can kill community spirit.
“I think that you have an involved clergy in a way that I haven’t seen in many communities. You have a responsive community government and I think that … I’ve never seen transparency of process in a police department in the way that the Stockton PD has really stepped up.
“And then from the community level, meeting people and being so welcomed. I’ve lived in a lot of places and I’ve never felt so welcomed with such open arms. And this was before I took my position and people wanted to meet with me for various reasons. it was just, You know, I’m new to Stockton and people kind of orienting you to the community.”
GLYNN ON THE OFFICE SHE WILL BE RUNNING: “So much of the work we’re doing is the community-building piece that leads to violence prevention, whereas the violence intervention piece is all the police department. In terms of my staff, the Peacekeepers have been a presence in the Stockton community for almost 17 years. They’re now under the Office of Violence Prevention. We have supervisors of Peacekeepers and then the Peacekeepers manager.
GLYNN ON CEASEFIRE “CALL-INS:” ”The approach of identifying who is most at-risk of committing a crime or being the victim of a crime and targeting our efforts knowing that we have limited resources is strategic and necessary. The message of, ‘We care about you and we want you to succeed,’ is something that I’ve never heard law enforcement say to a community of essentially violent offenders. I think that the data doesn’t lie, I think evidence doesn’t lie, and it’s commendable that we’ve revived an effort that has been stripped of funding in many cities.”
GLYNN ON WHERE TO BEGIN IN A MASSIVE AND VITAL UNDERTAKING LIKE THIS: “I don’t have all of the answers and I don’t think any one person does. I think that many people in the Stockton community have been doing this a lot longer than I have and know the community much more intimately.
“It’s bringing these people and this institutional knowledge to the table. Where you start is you build a coalition of invested stakeholders who know the community, know the issues, know some solutions from at least within their own professional wheelhouse. I think that’s being done through Marshall Plan and Ceasefire. The beginning stages, it was rolled out in 2012, but I think that we’ve laid the groundwork and this office will be helping to serve as the convener if you will of some of these community stakeholders. People are engaged. I think it’s just making sure that we have a method of sharing information. We’re working on our reentry piece with probation and with the police department and with Friends Outside and other nonprofit organizations who have been around for over 50 years and do a good job, but making sure that everyone is at the table and is able to share best practices, and then when a service is needed or something comes up, strategizing together on what the strategy should be or best practices.”
JONES ON STOCKTON CRIME: “The data shows that (most “at-risk” people are) at equal risk typically of being a shooter, being incarcerated, or being a victim of being shot or killed, they’re typically the same high-risk group.
“As the phrase goes, suspect one day, victim the other, possibly, because of the active and violent lifestyle they’re engaged in.”
WILSON ON A NOW-DEFUNCT ANTI-VIOLENCE OFFICE HE PREVIOUSLY RAN IN SAN BERNARDINO: “The city of San Bernardino had some very similar crime issues and they went through a particularly high-profile set of violent issues involving children being shot either at the dinner table or in schoolyard playgrounds, some very, very ugly things. A new mayor had come on board who had spent 30 years as a superior court judge … he came on board and one of his initiatives coming from being a law-and-order person, he had an expectation and a desire to really take a different approach to crime reduction and to dealing with specifically violent crime, a situation not unlike where we are here.
“In that process, rather than Marshall Plan, it was Operation Phoenix. It was a concept there similar to many of the things that we have going on here. But here it’s much more advanced and much more refined, and it benefits from additional data that has taken place since that time. The concept was to create this Office of Community Safety and Violence Prevention (in San Bernardino) to do some of the same things that are going on that Jessica will be doing, but her role is far greater. This is a much more well-thought-out program. It’s designed to be much more sustainable than that one was. In fact, that one went away. It was never set up in a way that was really going to be sustainable. And because the concept is to do these long-range things, you can’t do that by popping in and out when it’s convenient or when the urge strikes you. … I think Jessica’s team is poised to have far greater and far more long-lasting results.
“The concept is that by laying the proper foundation now and having the office really interwoven into the other things we do as an organization, it will have longevity that is in perpetuity.”
WILSON ON COMPLAINTS THAT THE CITY DID NOT HIRE A LOCAL PERSON FOR THIS POSITION: “Like many decisions we make, I think perspective is really important. We as the decision makers and the people who have gotten to know her and her full background and gotten more than just a two-paragraph summary of her professional background have a very specific understanding and perception of what she does. Based on the number of people who were involved in this hiring process, that was consistent across the board. Everyone who we’ve come across who had the opportunity to really get to know her true skill set came away with the same impression. I’m not aware of any negative comments that have come from anyone who was privy to that information.”
GLYNN ON MEASURING THE EFFECTIVENESS OF HER OFFICE: HOW MEASURE EFFECTIVENESS: ”People keep saying to me that the absence of crime is going to be the greatest success but it’s the poorest measure. You can’t say for certain that it’s any one thing. We have an excellent police department who is doing a tremendous job through this initiative and we have many dedicated community-based organizations so to take credit for the absence of crime is going to be difficult. I think the measures of really engaging the community who perhaps hasn’t always been at the table will be important.
“I think that the long-term plan for this office in that it’s here and it’s established, is already a success. But in terms of some of the softer measures, I think that’s to be determined not just by me but by some of the partners again who have been doing this work for a long time, with our partners in probation and with the county and within the judicial system. I think it’s going to be a process of figuring out how we look at success or how we measure our success.”