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Survey: Lathrop residents worry about gang crime
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LATHROP – The good news is that the majority of residents contacted for a survey about the quality of life in Lathrop believe that the city is on the right track.

The concern? Even more perceive that the city has a serious crime problem – with gangs as the focal point – that has been getting worse over the last few years. Both the closing of local fire stations and cuts to police protection services were the top safety concerns among the 300 residents that were polled by FM3 Public Opinion Research and Strategy for the Lew Edwards Group.

More than 80 percent of those polled said it was of serious concern that the City of Lathrop has over 400 documented gang members and associates – about two percent of the population – living in the community. Some 86 percent took issue with the fact that there have been 71 percent more burglaries over the past six months than there were during the same time period last year.

The solution? The city could end up moving forward with a plan to institute a one-cent sales tax increase to help pay for essential public safety services such as police and fire protection – a question that garnered 67 percent support from those who were asked if they would support such a measure.

Because Lathrop is testing the waters for a general tax increase – not a dedicated tax like Manteca voters approved with Measure M to help fund police and fire services – the city would only have to secure a simple majority and make sure that the ballot language doesn’t signify that the funding will be set aside for any specific use.

It would give residents the chance to vote on a tax that would certainly include the Lathrop-Manteca Fire District as one of the beneficiaries. It would give local homeowners the power to make decisions after business owners, including some from out of state, voted down a parcel tax increase that would have helped the struggling agency with a $1 million cash influx every year.

Mayor Joseph “Chaka” Santos said that he wasn’t necessarily caught off guard by the information that was provided in the report, but noted that he can see the benefit that the increase could end up providing immediately in terms of addressing crime and public safety response times.

“I know that this is something that would help our community,” Santos said. “It’s something that we could use to pay for extra services that we don’t have the money for right now such as police and fire.”

Because no decision was needed, the council simply accepted the report and will likely revisit the issue in the coming months to determine if it’s something that they want to see on the ballot this November.