STOCKTON, Calif. — Stockton police reported the city's 42nd homicide of the year Wednesday morning, a rising count causing widespread safety concerns amongst residents and calls to action from city leaders.
The city is currently dealing with an uptick in killings from previous years with a reported 39 total year-to-date homicides at the end of Aug. 2022 versus 39 total in 2021.
Comparatively, the number of homicides reported at the end of August this year were the highest reported August numbers since 2012, which was the year Stockton saw its highest number of homicides (71) since at least 1995, according to data from the Stockton Police Department.
"The city of Stockton is taking these matters very, very seriously," Stockton Mayor Kevin Lincoln told ABC10. "One homicide, one death is one too many."
According to Stockton city leaders, a plan is currently in the works to address and attempt to deter violent crime, along with longstanding efforts from the police department and community organizations.
"Right now, what we're focusing in on as a city is threefold – we're focusing on enforcement, outreach and follow up," said Lincoln.
Part of the city's plan includes increasing police visibility in areas with the highest rates of crime in an effort to mitigate future homicides, as well as facilitate comprehensive outreach with the community through the Office of Violence Prevention.
"Those communities that have been impacted as a result of the homicides year-to-date, we're on the ground," Lincoln said. "We're providing outreach, we're providing support, through our chaplaincy department, through our partnership with community-based organizations throughout the city to let those communities know that they're important to us, that we care about them, and that we're going to do everything that we can to ensure their safety, but most importantly, bring justice to those families as well that want answers that had been impacted and that are victims of these violent, violent crimes."
The Stockton Police Department is also making additional efforts to deter crime through one-on-one community outreach.
"Our police chief Stanley McFadden has been actually going out and doing community walks, or he's actually taking his command staff out in those neighborhoods where we're seeing an increase (in) shootings and homicides," said Stockton Police Department spokesman, Joseph Silva. "He's been meeting with residents who live in those neighborhoods. He's meeting with business owners, and he has a plan."
Both Mayor Lincoln and the Stockton Police Department stressed the efforts rely greatly on cooperation from Stockton residents who want to see change.
"The bottom line is we cannot accomplish our goals and our initiatives without the help of the community," Lincoln said. "We need the community."
According to Stockton Police, at least 50% of homicides reported this year have been gang-related while the rest are the result of interpersonal conflict or random acts of violence.
The increase in homicides could - in part - be attributed to a lack of police presence. The Stockton Police Department currently has 384 officers, about 100 short of what is needed to serve the city's population of over 311,000 people, according to Silva.
Another potential reason is the amount of illegal guns being recovered by Stockton Police.
"If you go on our social media, Facebook, Twitter or Instagram, you can just see the type of weapons that our officers are taking during these traffic stops... in those neighborhoods where we've seen seen an uptick in violence," Silva said. "We definitely know that there's more guns out there, and we know the guns are in the wrong hands of people and that's why our officers are out there doing those traffic stops, being proactive to prevent some type of other crime shooting or homicide from occurring."
Part of the city's plan is to increase police visibility, which includes police presence and traffic stops in areas deemed necessary. Although this may be a challenge with a shortage of police personnel, city leaders remain confident in its resources and newly pledged efforts to prevent further homicides from happening.
"We don't want to be reactive," Lincoln said. "When it comes to the crime and homicides, we want to be responsive."
Mayor Lincoln says he plans to further address the city about the rise in violent crime in a town hall meeting on Oct. 5. Until then, Lincoln says he encourages Stockton residents who are feeling fear or uncertainty during this time to trust those who have sworn to protect them and move forward as the city moves toward progress.
"There's one thing that this community will do... we'll continue to unite, we'll continue to move forward together and work together to improve the quality of life for everybody in our city," Lincoln said.
Watch more from ABC10: Stockton community members looking for more safety precautions near I-5 off-ramp