By Anser Hassan
SACRAMENTO (CBS13) – Residents in Sacramento’s Oak Park neighborhood saw an increase in police presence Sunday night as the city added 30 additional officers to patrol the area following a string of recent shootings.
There have been nine shootings, two of them fatal, over the past few weeks. That spike in violence has residents demanding an increase in police patrols. It’s just one of the demands that came out of recent meetings between city leaders and residents.
“For those engaged in violent activity, we want them to know, not here, not anywhere. We are watching,” said Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg at a community picnic held Sunday afternoon in Oak Park.
Community leaders have been meeting with elected officials and law enforcement to come up with ideas to combat the spike in violence. The picnic was one of them. It was an attempt at unity in the face of the increase in violence. Over 100 people showed up. Along with the food, music, and games, there was a message, said Steinberg, that “residents are not alone.”
Local residents say this type of event sends a strong message.
“(That we) have support. The community is behind them. The mayor is behind them. People are then likely to start making positive improvements within themselves,” said a young mother identified only as Teresa. “The kids need positive role models. The kids need to see that we can come out and have a good time. It’s not about fighting or just negative energy, period.”
“You get people here, together. They can talk about (the violence), you feel more comfortable. I think it’s important to do stuff like this,” said 16-year-old Anthony Hopkins.
Naomi Jefferson, who grew up in Oak Park, also attended the picnic. She believes a stronger police presence will bring the change she’s looking for. And she’s glad she had the chance to meet some of the officers.
“Since the police are out here, I get to meet the police who are going to be policing the neighborhood and to basically tell them what my concerns are,” said Jefferson. “I have small children that I look after and I don’t want them to be exposed to the drugs and violence and the gangs.”
Rachelle Ditmore has lived in Oak Park for 18 years. She believes success can only come from a community-based approach to fighting violence. For her, events like the community picnic, where residents got to interact with law enforcement officials, is a big first step towards that.
“All these things are a way to have relationships, to speak into the homes and lives of families. And that’s what has to change. Mindsets have to change and so we have to create opportunities to build those relationships to get to mindset. And that’s not going to happen overnight,” she said.
And while many residents applaud the city’s efforts, many are also critical of the sometimes strained relationship with law enforcement. And they don’t want this to just be more rhetoric. That point is not lost on the mayor, who along with the increased patrolling, is promising increased investments in Oak Park as well.
The extra police patrols will go through the Fourth of July weekend.