STOCKTON (CBS13) – Stockton Mayor Anthony Silva says he’s declaring war on gangs in the city. This comes less than a week after a three-year-old girl was shot and killed in a gang shootout.
The mayor also announced a list of actions he plans to take to rid the city of gangs and gang-related crime.
But before his announcement on Thursday, the mayor insisted his announcement is not political.
The mayor called Stockton a “war zone,” and compared gangs to terrorists. He says his new plan would solve the gang problem, but his opponent – City Councilman Michael Tubbs – says the mayor is taking the wrong approach.
“I hereby declare war on all active gang members in Stockton,” said Stockton Mayor Anthony Silva on Thursday.
Mayor Silva says he will begin by re-funding his gun buyback program, and target East and South Stockton neighborhoods.
Additionally, the mayor said he wants to work with local law enforcement agencies to conduct gun sweeps on known gang members and people on probation. Silva also says he wants to double the number of security cameras around the city and hire private security to help police patrol the streets at night.
Silva has been mayor since 2013, and while police say the gang problem has plagued the streets of Stockton for decades, CBS13 asked Silva why he is now declaring a war on gangs?
“There are peaks and valleys in crime – there are years where there isn’t a lot of crime, and there are years where there is,” Silva replied. “It hit home because a baby was killed.”
“If solving the gang problem Stockton has had for 40 years was as easy as declaring war on gangs, why didn’t you do it before?” questioned Councilman Michael Tubbs, Silva’s mayoral opponent.
Having lost a cousin to gang violence, Tubbs says declaring war isn’t the answer.
“If we identify these guys, we can provide them mentorship and training where can they go to remove their tattoos, get a job, and a real opportunity,” Tubbs added.
But Mayor Silva says the proof is in the numbers. He says 65 percent of the homicides in Stockton from the past eight years are still unsolved, and that it’s going to take his aggressive approach and this message to gangsters: “scumbags and murderers, be assured that we are coming for you.”
Councilman Tubbs says he understands police are part of the solution, but he says it’s about empowering the community and developing relationships.
At the end of his announcement, the mayor announced he is giving gangsters in Stockton an ultimatum: he said they have the option of leaving their gang, or leaving Stockton by Dec. 1.
Whether they do or do not, the mayor says he’s rolling out a new mobile app by mid-December which would display documented gang members and where they live.
The mayor is also more than doubling the cash reward from $10,000 to $25,000 for three-year-old Melanie Martinez, the little girl who was shot and killed by suspected gang members on Sunday.