Police and community members discussed the state of crime in Lodi and ways residents could prevent becoming one of the growing population of property crime victims during Thursday’s town hall meeting at Carnegie Hall.
“The criminals in the city seem to be expanding,” said Lodi Mayor Alan Nakanishi.
Lodi Police Chief Mark Helms showed the roughly 40 people in attendance how some types of crime — like gang violence — are in decline, and addressed strategies to combat offenses in the future.
Helms also fielded questions from community members, some concerned about the rising number of convicted felons being released from jails and prisons and into communities.
California’s prison realignment has forced county jails to house significantly more inmates. Jails, as a result, are releasing more non-violent offenders.
Helms said that realignment can’t be entirely blamed for Lodi’s rise in property crime, but the police are arresting more people on parole for non-violent offenses.
“We have a fair amount of property crime in Lodi,” said Helms, who added property crime made 91 percent of offenses in 2012.
Lodi experienced 219 car thefts in 2011 and 337 thefts in 2012. That rate is expected to increase again this year, Helms added.
Community members spoke about their own experiences.
Lodi resident Cliff Lenzi said he has noticed a rise in suspicious activity in his neighborhood, especially drug-related activity.
“It seems like these incidences are occurring more and more frequently,” he said. “As a community watch member, how can we work together to get some of these people off the streets?”
Helms also addressed the growing number of people driving under the influence of drugs and alcohol.
“We have a DUI problem in Lodi,” Helms said.
While traffic collision rates are staying even, DUI-related crashes are increasing, said Helms, adding that drug use is sometimes difficult for officers to detect.
“It’s becoming more of a problem and something that we’re going to have to focus on in the future,” Helms said.
But other types of crime are in decline, Helms said.
Lodi’s gang problem reached its peak in 2011. With four murders and more than 200 gang-related crimes that year, police looked for measures to suppress the issue.
“We had a lot of violence going on,” Helms said.
They sought out two gang reduction grants and aligned with agencies that reach out to children in gangs.
In attendance was a 13-year-old who the city’s youth outreach workers rescued from a Lodi gang.
The teen, in fact, approached the outreach workers and turned over his gang colors.
“It’s amazing how this community has come together to address the gang problems and youth violence,” Helms said.
Lodi experienced a 50 percent reduction in gang crimes in 2012 compared to 2011, and a 40 percent drop in gang arrests.
“We aren’t declaring victory, but we’re making really good progress,” Helms said.
Helms discussed issues that Lodi’s police department is expecting to address in the near future, including the growing number of wanted criminals moving from Stockton to Lodi in order to evade police.
But the meeting largely addressed crime prevention. Helms and city officials discussed programs like Neighborhood Watch as proactive measures that can reduce property crime.
Lodi police even gave away steering wheel locks.
And city officials reinforced that the city needs help from community members in order to prevent crime.
“Anything is possible when we work together for a common goal,” Councilwoman Joanne Mounce said.