With crime on the rise we need to fight our natural instincts

In Opinion on September 28, 2012 at 3:31 pm

Crowd gathers at the steps of the Haggin Museum in Victory Park for a Town Hall Meeting

For the longest time it was easy to ignore crime in Stockton. For many, it’s still easy to ignore. Maybe ignore is the wrong word, tolerate is probably more accurate. There’s always been some sort of imaginary line separating the dangerous pockets of Stockton from the areas perceived as “safe”. It’s never been anything set in stone, but you know to avoid those areas if you can. If you can’t, you make sure you lock the doors to your car on the way through.

Crime, for the most part, happened in the areas it was supposed to happen. If you get shot on the corner of 8th St and Lincoln at one in the morning, people aren’t going to wonder why you got shot. They’re going to wonder what the hell you were doing on 8th and Lincoln at one in the morning. Bank of the West gets held up again? Well yeah, they get robbed so much I’m pretty sure their idea of security is a sign at the front door that reads “Pretty please do not rob us.”

Lately, stuff like that has been getting a lot harder to compartmentalize. Not because the crimes being committed in 2012 are any more heinous than crimes in 2011, but because they’re crossing that lock down line.

When a 60-year-old man was gunned down for a gold chain in Victory Park and a 70-year-old stroke survivor was beaten with his own cane for the cash in his wallet at that same park, people were shocked that something like that could happen at a park that was generally considered pretty safe. It hit me especially hard since my fiance works in that park and walks the perimeter almost every day. My first reaction was a natural one, we need to leave.

This wasn’t my first dance with Stockton’s darker side, but I was essentially on my own then and was less discerning with where I hung out. I only had to worry about myself. With my future wife in the picture now my concerns are doubled (and eventually tripled and quadrupled when, God willing, we start a family), and things became a lot less simple. I’ve spent the past week or so telling the love of my life that I’m sure it’s safe that she go to work when in reality I know I can’t promise that. How can I? Armando Pina could have been an isolated incident, but that’s a hard argument to make when a man gets beaten in the bathroom just days later.

It’s natural to want to move. It’s the easiest way to protect the ones you love. That’s why I don’t blame Dallas Braden for wanting to uproot his family and move away from his home town. Crime just happened around around my family, it actually happened to him and his family. I’m sure he and his grandma were in areas they considered generally safe and somebody crossed that imaginary line and violated their way of life. It’s an awful feeling and anybody would want to remove themselves from a situation where that would happen again. The problem with that is that it’s just going to make things worse.

If we cower in fear every time something bad happens, soon there isn’t going to be anybody out on our streets. It’s a mentality like that which led to the bathroom beating in Victory Park. Since the Pina shooting the park has been a ghost town. People walking around the park, who are usually the bane of my existence when I try and visit my fiance at work, have been scarce since the shooting. On the Sunday of that restroom robbery, Victory Park was nearly empty. Usually there’s at least half a dozen bounce houses and some particularly dedicated joggers, but people are (justifiably) scared.

Instead of running, we need to face our fears. Nobody would blame you for being scared but if we don’t confront those fears we will just cede more parts of Stockton to the criminals we’re fighting. Those “lock your doors” pockets of the city will become bigger and the danger will just increase. We need to stand up and not be bullied. We need to keep going to parks like Victory Park to show that one or two incidents is not all it takes to take over part of our town.

Law enforcement isn’t just the job of the police department, it’s everyone’s responsibility. The first line of defense isn’t the police, it’s us. We need to be out there so we can all be witnesses if something goes down. We shouldn’t be the ones feeling worried, the criminals of Stockton should be worried that one of us is going to see them and hold them accountable for their actions (And no, that wasn’t an endorsement for martial law). Most importantly, we need to look after our fellow man. We need to fight that impulse to run and hide and try and do everything we can to help each other out. If we don’t, then we’ve already lost.


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