Advancing Peace in Stockton
by Mayor Michael Tubbs
October 2017 was a tough month for me. I had to eulogize Brandon Harrison, a 22 year old community organizer, at his funeral after his murder just a few days before the 7th anniversary of the murder of my cousin Donnell James II. The stories of these two young men, and countless like them in the city, motivate me every day as Mayor to do all that I can to make Stockton a safe city with opportunity for everyone.
In that vein, I am excited that on January 9th, at the first council meeting of the year, the council will discuss ways to reduce gun violence and homicides in our community. I am bringing before the council a resolution to bring Advance Peace, a program that I’ve vetted with city staff and a diverse array of community members, to Stockton.
Advance Peace. Originally founded in Richmond California, focuses on the worst offenders; the guys most likely to commit a violent gun crime. Advance Peace requires 7 days per week, multiple times a day interaction between participants and mentors. Each participant focuses on life mapping and setting goals, internships and opportunities.
In the Richmond program, of the participants between 2010-2016, over 90% are still alive, 83% haven’t been injured by a firearm, and over 70% were not a suspect or charged for a new firearm crime since becoming program fellows. Moreover, homicides decreased from 44 in 2007 to a low of 11 in 2014.
Advance Peace in and of itself will not solve issues of generational violence and poverty. The tried and tested program will, however, be accompanied by existing law enforcement and prevention efforts, community policing, and coordination with other law enforcement partners. These efforts together will serve as a key catalyst in creating the safe community that we all deserve.
Further, Advance Peace compliments existing city public safety initiatives. Just this week we hired our 452nd officer, the most we’ve hired thanks to the voter approved Measures A and B. Additionally, Measures A and B helped establish and create the Office of Violence Prevention, which houses our Peacekeeper and Ceasefire initiatives. These investments have helped some crime trend downward, but we still have a persistently high homicide and gun violence rate that demands immediate attention and action.
Over the past 30 years, the city has seen at least double the statewide average in shootings and homicides. The majority of our violent crime in Stockton is the result of less than one hundred men. Think about that-- less than one hundred people are poisoning the well for all 315,000 residents. This somber fact comes with an upside – if by the entire community focuses on less than one percent of the population, we can help to stem the tide of violence in Stockton.
Violence is a complex issue that defies easy solutions. With that reality, however, it is imperative that we hold ourselves mutually accountable and continue to identify best practices and add them to our violence reduction strategies.
As Mayor, public safety is my top priority. We can’t have a great city without first having safe streets. Citizens that live here know that our community is special. Yet, despite our best efforts to change the narrative, without a significant drop in homicides, we will struggle to reclaim our image.
To not take action, will not only cost more lives, but will also impact us financially. According to Mother Jones, a single murder costs approximately $441,000. Advance Peace, thanks to the support of amazing philanthropic partners, will come at no cost to our taxpayers. Unlike in Sacramento where the council unanimously voted to approve Advance Peace to the tune of $1.5 million in public funds, our entire program will be paid for privately. The program is an incredible investment that illustrates that violence is not our destiny and that it is possible to advance peace.
There are several misconceptions about Advance Peace. Let me be clear, Advance Peace is not a get out of jail free card. Participating in this program doesn't erase the past, but it does help these young men learn how to make better choices for their own and for our community’s collective future. Another misconception about this program is that it pays criminals to not shoot each other. If fear of the death penalty, life in prison or death itself doesn’t deter these individuals from committing horrific acts of violence, a small stipend certainly will not. Further, stipends range from $300-$700 monthly, and can only be received after 6-months of participation in the program.
Stockton, the status quo and 55 homicides is unacceptable. All life is sacred. As a city, we must continue to make public safety priority number one, hold ourselves accountable, continue to give our officers the tools they need, and begin investing in the people and the communities most impacted by violence. Advance Peace will do exactly that. Just like the young men Advance Peace will help, our community’s future is brighter than its past. I am excited about adding Advance Peace and look forward to working collaboratively to significantly reduce gun violence and homicide in our city in the years to come.
To learn more and support our efforts, please send a message of support through the following link: https://www.michaeldtubbs.com/advance-peace-contact