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Mayor: Gang crime result of failures in community

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Mayor: Gang crime result of failures in community

Video of the mayor’s talk about gangs.

hromero/


POSTED June 29, 2012 1:45 a.m.

Manteca Mayor Willie Weatherford doesn’t believe that the recent rash of violent crime that has struck the city is a police problem per se.

Sure it’s the officers that are tasked with chasing down the leads as they come in and rolling out the yellow tape when shots are fired on what was a relatively sleepy residential street. But Thursday night Weatherford laid out a chart that showed five things – family, church, friends, jobs and schools – that he believes have to fail before it reaches that point.

The concept of gangs within communities, Weatherford said, is nothing new. It’s the methods being used that have changed and have caused the most concern.

“It’s the severity of the types of crimes that has changed. Before you might have gotten beat up or chased out of town – now you get shot,” said the mayor at the bi-monthly meeting of the Manteca Tea Party Patriots conducted at Chez Shari at the golf course. “And it’s not a police problem. Do you know what the police problem is? Picking up the bodies and following up with the information.

“It’s the problem of all of those other people that watched it get to that point.”

Reduced staffing levels might have made it easier for gangs and criminals to move about and hide – Weatherford said that they’re equal to the number of officers that patrolled the city in 1993 – but things might be changing really soon.

The addition of four new police officers – which will allow for the formation of a new gang unit that will more than likely include existing officers with knowledge of the community – was approved Thursday by the City Council. They will be paid for by a special public safety fund consisting of developer contributions when the building boom was in full-swing.

But that doesn’t change the fact that Valerie Ford still can’t differentiate between what’s a shotgun blast and what’s a firecracker – leaving her to fear for the lives of her children.

“I care about the community and I care about the violence and all politics aside, that’s why I’m here today,” she said. “If I have to pay more taxes to make sure my kids don’t get shot, I’m willing.”

Weatherford – who served as a Manteca police officer before retiring as the chief – did challenge the crowd to do one thing that he believes could have a major impact on the future of crime in the community.

Get to know your neighbor.

“This will take all of us working together,” he said. “The new police chief, the newest police officer, the oldest police officer.

“And it can’t just be done at the level of the Police Department. It’s going to take citizen involvement in order to get better.”

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