In November, the Stockton Police Department (SPD) launched a new plan for reducing violent crime in Stockton, California. The SPD Three-Year Strategic Plan focuses on merging current efforts with new strategies for reducing gang and gun violence. Some of the strategies are already showing impressive results.
According to the plan’s documents, this was initiated to combat the record levels of violent crime in Stockton. In May 2012, the Stockton police realized they needed a new strategy to reduce the violence in their city. As part of that strategy, Police Chief Eric Jones and the Stockton City Council approved the Violence Reduction Initiative and by the end of 2012, the SPD seized nearly 1,000 firearms.
How are they doing it?
In accordance with the Police Department’s motto, “Working with the people of Stockton to build a safe and secure Community,” the Violence Reduction Initiative addressed violence through increased community partnerships and efficient use of resources and technology. The SPD Three-Year Strategic Plan reinforces those principles. It calls for using digital technology to engage the community in helping to stop the violence.
“As a Stockton resident, I have a stake in our community,” Chief Jones states on the SPD website, “I believe a police department can only be as good as the partnerships it creates with its community.”
Using Facebook and other social media, the SPD expanded two-way communication with city residents. It set up Text-Tipping, which is a program that allows people to anonymously text the police department about suspicious activity. The SPD also developed a mobile app to allow community members to engage with the department.
These technological interfaces supplement face-to-face communication and not replace it.
The Stockton PD also implemented Operation Ceasefire as part of the SPD Three-Year Strategic Plan.
First implemented in Boston, MA in 1996, Operation Ceasefire takes a three-pronged approach to reducing gang violence. The program brings in gang members who are on probation or parole and gives community member a chance to tell them they want the violence to end. Another aspect of this program has social workers offer services to help gang members get away from the violence. The third element of the program has the police promise gang members that those participating in violence will be targeted and removed from the streets, starting with the most violent. According to a 2005 National Institute of Justice report, Operation Ceasefire has had high success rates in several cities across America and California, including Boston and Los Angeles.
The Public and Police Working Together
As part of the SPD Three-Year Strategic Plan, the SPD increased the number of public meetings they hold to discuss community issues and set up Community Response Teams and a Community Advisory Board. These community outreach programs built trust among the community and the police department by opening new lines of communication.
Once the people of Stockton felt the police would be there to respond to their needs, they supplied better information about criminal activity in their neighborhoods. With better information, the police strategically deploy officers to respond to potential violence in a timelier manor. This outreach strategy also allowed the community to work together to send a unified message to the gangs that the violence needs to stop.
The SPD Three-Year Strategic Plan requires officers to be a bigger part of the communities they serve by being present at parks and on playgrounds regularly. It also calls for increased collaboration with other law enforcement agencies on the county, state, and federal levels.
From Urban Blight to Guiding Light
Between 2008 and 2011, budget cuts led to downsizing the Stockton police force. With fewer officers on the street, crime rose quickly and by 2012 Stockton was considered the 6th most violent city in the nation. After implementing the SPD Three-Year Strategic Plan, Stockton officials plan to rebuild and strengthen its Police department with a strategy they are calling “The Four Ps:” Partnerships, Prevention, Prediction, and Pursuit
With so many public programs struggling with low funding, municipalities across the country are looking for ways to operate their police forces more efficiently. They may have just found exactly what they’re looking for in the example set by Stockton, California.