In Victory Park, Stockton’s diversity is on display at its best. Families picnic and smack pinatas, people walk the perimeter for exercise, kids play on the play sets, the culturati enjoy the Haggin Museum and folks enjoy the concerts in the park.
In fact, Victory Park probably makes I-5′s Pershing Avenue offramp the city’s best entrance. What better or more emblematic neighborhood could the city show arriving visitors?
It’s a shame that a couple high-profile, heinous crimes have chilled the neighborhood. Chief Jones was exactly right when he said at the park rally last night that the best crime fighting tool at hand to keep the park safe is for people to continue to use it. As long as the good actors far outnumber the bad actors, the good actors will own the park.
But the good actors need to know there’s a police force in reserve, just in case. Jones also shared a dismaying statistic: since 2008, the Stockton police force has been slashed by 120 cops. The two teenagers who murdered a 60-year-old man in broad daylight for his gold chain, and the thugs who beat an old man with his cane, are still out there. That is not reassuring.
Ironically, 120 police is roughly the number by which the police force should have grown, according to the criminologist consultant that authored the Braga Report. But 120 cops would cost the city roughly $15 million a year, at least. Unfortunately, the city is still losing ground financially. In part this is because the Wall Street greedheads who caused this recession in the first place are fighting the city’s bankruptcy filing hammer and tong, running city legal bills higher than anticipated.
Since money is scarce, the city has to use its head. On Tuesday the city released its Marshall Plan. Check it out.
Simultaneously, near one of the roots of the problem, Stockton Unified Superintendent Steve Lowder recently said that Stockton’s inner city school district will take a step backward if voters reject Gov. Jerry Brown’s tax measure. That proposal is in voter’s hands.
Stockton crime problem is even more complex. It involves everything from poor parenting to meth to our weak regional economy. Some of those things are not in our control. But the ingredients we should be able to muster are citizen resolve, government smarts and, somehow, $15 million.