It doesn't sound like much of a milestone. It probably sounds like damning with faint praise. But San Pablo, California, had no murders in 2013, and that's a big deal.
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San Pablo is a small urban area in the East Bay, population 29,000, with a per capita income of $17,286. The crime rate has historically been over twice the national average, and at one point they had the fourth-highest in the nation. It's been thirty years since they didn't have at least one murder; in 2012 there were seven.
Despite breathless news reports about "super predators" and whatnot, crime has been dropping nationwide since its peak in the 1980's and early 1990's. (Well, not all crime: mortgage fraud is still doing a brisk business, and still no bankers in jail, but that's a topic for another diary.) I don't claim to know all the reasons, but from my vantage point as a CPS worker in the Bay Area, we seem to be past the wost of the crack and meth epidemics (knock on wood). We have a long way to go still. San Pablo has also seen a significant decline in robbery, car theft, and rape (although acquaintance rapes tend to go unreported, so it's hard to get accurate figures).
Part of the change in San Pablo comes from reinvesting in the community, the same thing that brought Oelwein, Iowa back from its period as meth capitol of the country. The SF Chronicle's article on San Pablo mentions new housing, improved schools, and low-cost after-school programs are helping struggling families. These are the kind of investments that pay dividends mostly in the long term. The other piece comes from the police department's efforts at community policing, including foot and bike patrols, and more:
Chief Walt Schuld, who's been on the San Pablo force for 31 years, instituted several community outreach programs in the past year or two, including parenting classes in Spanish and police-led outings for kids.People who are used to "positive encounters" with the police will turn to them for help and cooperate when police need information on what's going on in the community. Contrast this with the increasingly militarized police force in nearby Oakland (covered here by kossack jpmassar) where both violent and property crime have been soaring.
"We're a very diverse community with a lot of immigrants, and we wanted to make them comfortable with the police," he said. "Our goal is that every kid in San Pablo, by the time they finish middle school, has six positive encounters with police officers."
One year's stats can be a fluke, of course, and none of this is simple. We have a "drug war" that focuses on all the wrong things while gutting funding for treatment programs. We have a two-tiered justice system where people can get tazed at traffic stops while bankers can steal people's homes and go free. There's a lot to sort out about what works and what doesn't. But I think the head of San Pablo's new community center is on to something here:
"We found that if you treat kids like thugs, that's what they become. But if you treat them like family, with respect and in their cultural comfort zone, you have a real opportunity to make a difference," said director Eugene Rodriguez.On to Top Comments!
TOP COMMENTS: JANUARY 22, 2014
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