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Facing a dramatic rise in violent crime, Vallejo has launched a new initiative designed to make the city safer by creating better relationships between police and residents and by increasing police visibility in the community.
The initiative, called Operation PEACE, involves partnering with community groups, assigning more officers to patrol duties, the assistance of law enforcement agencies such as the California Highway Patrol and the FBI, and the use of technology to aid investigations.
“This is about ending the anger and hate and moving forward,” said Mayor Bob Sampayan at a Sept. 10 news conference where he appeared with Police Chief Shawny Williams, Councilman Hakeem Brown, and Vallejo NAACP chapter president Jimmie Jackson.
“To those that are involved in this violence, you will be brought to justice. Our residents will not tolerate any of you and what you’ve turned Vallejo into,” added Sampayan, a retired Vallejo police sergeant.
Through Sept. 8, there had been 209 shootings in Vallejo this year, Williams said. The city’s 21 murders this year have put it on pace to break the record of 30 set in 1994, according to the Vallejo Police Officers’ Union, which is campaigning aggressively for more officers to be hired. Twenty of this year’s killings were by shooting, which marks a 300 percent increase in murder by firearm over last year. Sixteen of those murdered this year were Black, Williams said.
“This city we’ve watched descend into a city where people no longer feel safe in their homes and their neighborhoods and their communities. This is affecting our children, and this is affecting working-class families.”Councilman Hakeem Brown
“Just to be frank, we’re at a crossroads here,” said Brown. “This city we’ve watched descend into a city where people no longer feel safe in their homes and their neighborhoods and their communities. This is affecting our children, and this is affecting working-class families.”
Operation PEACE — which stands for Predictive Enforcement and Community Engagement — will include partnerships with groups including Common Ground, a Solano County coalition of community and faith-based organizations, and Advance Peace, a Richmond-based organization that works to reduce gun violence. Youth outreach and community forums will be among the tactics used. Other law enforcement partners, whose assistance has been requested for a period of two to three months, will include the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms and the Solano County Probation Department.
Jackson, of the NAACP, said in an interview that he has been assured that the initiative will have the support it needs to succeed.
“One of the things that we’ve expressed specifically to the chief, the mayor, and the city manager is that we’re not going to be part of a lip service committee or program,” Jackson said. “If it’s going to be a viable program we’re going to participate. If it’s not, we’re not going to participate. And I’ve been assured that they’re going to seek the funding and do whatever they need to do to put some teeth into it.”
Asked what resources the city would put into the initiative, Vallejo Police Department spokeswoman Brittany Jackson said in a statement: “We are in the process of aligning our efforts and creating a high-performing collaborative that includes a myriad of community based organizations and local, state and federal partners. As a result, we are still in the process of solidifying financial plans and costs to fund Operation PEACE.”
Operation PEACE has been launched following a wave of homicides this year and the killings of 18 people by police in the last decade.
“Too many young minority men are being killed by the police and by each other and we need to do something to stop that, that’s our goal,” Jackson said.
Williams said his department was committed to changing its approach.
“My heart goes out to anyone who’s lost their loved ones to a police shooting,” Williams said. “I can’t change the past but what we can do is improve, so one of the things we are doing as a police department is improving our processes, the organizational structure, our training, and we’re going to continue to do that.”
A full video of the news conference can be viewed on the Vallejo Police Department’s Facebook page.