June 25, 2004 Zero Gang Tolerance I recently received a letter from a Stockton, California resident who has purchased a home in Ceres and will be moving here in the near future. He expressed concerns about gang problems in this community, which apparently came to his attention after he made the purchase commitment. The citizen asked that I delete his full name and address (for the purpose of this article), but he was pleased to have the letter published in our local newspaper.
Thank you for your letter of June 12, 2004, regarding your serious concerns about gangs in Ceres.
First, you are correct that gangs are here in Ceres and that they are a problem. In fact gangs are the scourge of the San Joaquin Valley! They are responsible for drive-by shootings (in this county alone, since January 2004, there have been 12 gang-related homicides and numerous shootings in which the intended victim was either not hit or did not receive fatal injuries), they are responsible for a large percentage of the auto thefts, they are immersed in the drug dealing and manufacturing industry, they commit all kinds of violent crimes, and they destroy the community's appearance with their graffiti. Fortunately, Ceres has been spared the homicides, and the drive-by shootings have been infrequent.
Here is an example of this agency's commitment to doing everything [reasonably] possible to attack the gang problem, which was in response to our experiencing gangs congregating at the flea market on East Whitmore Road. After several weeks of surveillance and "normal" police actions to get rid of the gang members, we initiated a 30-officer sweep and cleaned up the flea market in one Sunday afternoon. Needless to say, I experienced criticism from some parts of the community, but I know we did the right thing and I stand by my actions.
In any event, we have a detective assigned full-time to gang intervention. We assign other officers as needed, and we cut no corners to protect public places, in particular. This agency deploys horses in the parks, we educate our officers about who the gang members are, and we shake them down, follow them, make arrests and do anything else legally permitted to keep continuous pressure on them.
Additionally, our city council takes this matter so seriously that they have formed an ad hoc committee to establish a county-wide "no tolerance" stance against gangs.
Yes, we have a problem with gangs, but our problem does not compare with that of other communities in the area. Furthermore, I am personally repulsed by the gangs' existence and the degradation they are causing to our community and this society as a whole. Frankly, I wish more people were as outraged as you, and that they would have brought pressure on both the local and federal governments to stop this problem - long before it grew to this almost irreversible point. For my part, I utilize an anti-gang policing philosophy that matches the degree of my repulsion for them. I spare no resources and will remain personally involved with intensity and commitment.
Again, I thank you for your letter. We need more (thousands) of people like you, and if we act in solidarity, we can take our communities back.
Art de Werk