LODI — The number of cases involving gangs in Lodi has decreased significantly over the last seven years, thanks to the combination of grant funding and proactive enforcement, Lodi Police Chief Tod Patterson said.
This week, Patterson announced that in 2019, the department has investigated just 16 gang-related incidents, a distinct contrast from the city’s record 270 cases in 2011.
“It’s a combination of our detectives and officers making arrests and the district attorney prosecuting to the fullest extent of the law,” he said. “Even though propositions are taking gang enhancements away from departments, we’ve still been at the forefront of having everyone in our department and the district attorney’s office take steps to make sure we have no repeat offenders.”
One of the ways Lodi was able to combat gang violence over the years was a three-year, $250,000 California Gang Reduction Intervention and Prevention grant from the Board of State and Community Corrections the department was awarded in 2012, Patterson said.
Most of the grant, $150,000, was used for overtime in which officers spent more time in specific areas to develop positive relationships and make contacts with gang members.
Another $50,000 was allocated to local non-profits such as Community Partnership for Families of San Joaquin, the 180 Teen Center and the Boys and Girls Club, that provided after-school tutoring, mentoring and parenting assistance.
The final $50,000 of the grant was used to hire a part-time code enforcement officer who dealt with properties occupied by gang members or their families.
The grant allowed the city to use $85,000 to hire two part-time youth outreach workers who were able to make contact with current gang members and intervene in their activities, as well as reach out to those considered to be at risk of joining a gang.
With the grant’s assistance, the department reduced the number of gang-related cases to 85 in 2013 and 81 in 2014.
Patterson said the department applied for the grant a second time in 2015, but was unsuccessful in obtaining funds.
Despite not being awarded, gang-related cases were held to 82 that year and dipped drastically to 49 by 2016.
There were 44 cases investigated in both 2017 and 2018, he said.
“Four years ago, our gang cases were in the 80s, and some thought we could get below that number,” he said. “At the time I truly believed we couldn’t get that low. But I’m extremely proud of what we’ve been able to accomplish, with and without the GRIP funding.”
In recent years, the department has been able to prevent an increase in gang numbers through a Gang Reduction, Education and Training program focusing on some of the city’s younger students.
In the GREAT program, the department’s School Resource Officers assigned to elementary campuses build relationships with third- and fourth-graders and educate them about the risks and dangers of becoming involved in gangs, Patterson said.
And while the department has not received GRIP funding in several years, Patterson said detectives and the youth outreach worker continue to contact gangs and reduce the number of members they enlist.
“We’ve still gone out and have been proactive in our enforcement efforts,” he said. “We’ve spent a lot of overtime to do some of these things, and because of our determination, we’re still able to educate, intervene and prevent increased gang activity.”