For the second consecutive year, Lodi experienced a decline in gang crimes, which police say is the result of a multifaceted approach implemented after seeing an all-time high in 2011.
In 2011, Lodi experienced 253 gang-related incidents. That dropped by 50 percent to 126 in 2012. In 2013, gang-related incidents declined by another 33 percent, to 85.
Gang-related arrests dropped from 202 in 2012 to 64 in 2013 — a decline of 68 percent.
“The reality is, it’s more of a holistic approach. It doesn’t take just enforcement. It takes enforcement, it takes education, it takes prevention. It takes using the Boys and Girls Club and our community liaisons. It’s a combination of all those things,” Lodi Police Lt. Sierra Brucia said. “We’re pleased about the decline, but it doesn’t mean that we’re giving up.”
During the annual State of the City luncheon in November 2013 at Hutchins Street Square, Lodi Police Chief Mark Helms said the department adopted a new approach to tackling gang-related crimes in 2011.
Previously, the department sent officers to gang-plagued areas in droves, hoping to curb gang activity. By 2011, the approach wasn’t garnering ideal results, so the department began studying gang crimes in greater detail.
“We started analyzing our gang crime to analyze where it was happening, and more importantly who was responsible — who were the ‘worst of the worst’ offenders,” Helms said during the November meeting. “Those were the people we concentrated on.”
In addition, a $550,000 grant from the state has allowed Lodi police to address gangs beyond just law enforcement. Today, with the help of grant funds, the department implements prevention efforts focused on addressing at-risk youths and offering them alternatives to joining gangs.
The department has been supported by two city youth outreach workers — Ruben Guardiola and Ernest Bass — who work with students in Lodi’s schools to keep them from joining gangs.
“If we didn’t have that grant, our department would be severely limited in being able to do those things,” Brucia said.
Several businesses on Lodi’s Eastside — where the majority of the city’s gang crimes occur — said that while their buildings are occasionally vandalized by gang graffiti, it happens less frequently than in years past.
Hudson Mangum, assistant manager of Lodi House, a nonprofit that provides assistance for homeless women and children, said his building on the 300 block of East Lodi Avenue was vandalized by gang graffiti last month, but that’s rare to see.
“It doesn’t happen as much, but it’s still happening,” he said.
Melesio Torres, owner of Torres Appliance on the 300 block of South Central Avenue, said his building has never experienced graffiti in four years.
“I’m from Stockton, and you don’t see that there,” he said. “That’s what I like about this town. It seems clean.”
Contact reporter Kristopher Anderson at firstname.lastname@example.org.