STOCKTON, CA - Stockton police Agt. Kathryn Nance knows she and her fellow officers have a tough job ahead of them, considering the city's gang problem.
"We have a huge gang problem. They feed on each other. When you have a lot, you get more gang members. It becomes a community problem," said Nance.
But Nance leads one of two community response teams in Stockton these days, and she's seeing some progress being made.
"We've gotten tons of guns off the street, a gun every day, two or three a week. That has to make a difference somewhere," said Nance.
Since June, 22 officers from Stockton have been assigned to the response teams, with the assignment of responding to known problem areas and looking for wanted criminals. Along with the new county-wide gang unit, a large number of officers are now allowed to "free-lance" their work each night, instead of responding to 911 calls.
The presence of those teams is in contrast to recent months when Stockton's police ranks were reduced by more than 100 officers because of budget problems.
"As soon as we cut officers and had experienced officers leaving, the crime rate goes up. Statistics show when you get below a certain number of officers, you can't stop crime," said Nance.
Stockton has been able to add two or three officers every couple of weeks because of new budget freedom. Still, the city is still far below its staffing from several years ago when there were nearly 450 sworn officers on the streets.
Stockton has had 49 homicides so far in 2012. Last year, the city set a record with 58 murders.
Reminder: News10 hosts " Stockton in Crisis: Searching for Solutions," a free town hall this Thursday, Sept. 27, at 7 p.m. at the University of the Pacific's Long Theatre.
By Tom Daly, email@example.com