Reporting Andrea Menniti
STOCKTON (CBS13) – One woman is taking on a fight against blight in Stockton, but budget cuts in the bankrupt city are making her battle anything but easy.
Jewel Abraham didn’t expect to spend her golden years cleaning up after others.
“I pick up a lot of the trash myself, I really do, and I’m just so tired of picking it up,” she said. “My neck hurts a lot!”
But the longtime Stockton homeowner refuses to let her neighborhood rot.
“I understand we are poor, some of us are very poor, but it’s no reason for us not be clean,” she said. “My mother told me always to be clean.”
She took CBS13 on a walk around the block on Monday. “This is worse than it’s been,” she said.
Clear examples of what’s wrong can be seen on every corner.
“The house down the street has feces in the backyard,” she said. “It’s just a mess. Urine, marijuana, all the other stuff you smell.”
Jewel has no qualms about calling the city for help.
“I’ve called code enforcement a lot of times,” she said. “They know me very well.”
But the bankrupt city made drastic cuts to the department over the past three years, making it tougher to battle blight.
“They get to the complaint as quickly as they can, but they have to prioritize what they respond to,” Stockton Police spokesman Officer Joe Silva said.
According to city documents, Stockton has lost two-thirds of its code enforcement officers since 2008 – down from 40 to 13. Code enforcement officers used to drive around and deal with issues before complaints even poured in. There’s simply not enough manpower to do that anymore.
Jewel’s home is the crown jewel of the neighborhood. She hopes others on the block will follow her lead, but convincing people to pitch in hasn’t been easy.
“I have lots of rakes and the sweeper you sweep the trash in, but ‘I’m not going to do it,’ that’s what they tell me,” she said.