“Public safety is on all of our minds,” said Cannella, a representative of the 12th District. “When kids are the ones who are committing the majority of the crimes, we as parents worry the most. Gangs and youth violence affects us all. We want to hear real stories and hear what the community is going through, so that we, as elected officials, can better prepare for these mishaps.”
Cannella said that he occasionally speaks with Mayor Luis Molina concerning recent issues, and understands the current implications that Patterson has garnered from its growing crime rate.
His solution is to bring the community together as a collective entity.
“We need to bring all our stakeholders together—the superintendent, the police force, our government, and the parents,” he said. “What are we seeing in the community and schools? What is being done at the local level, and what can be done at the state level? This meeting is a chance for us to talk with the community and hear their insight.”
Superintendent Philip Alfano of the Patterson Joint Unified School District happily joined as a panelist for the discussion, alongside Police Chief Tori Hughes and Mayor Molina.
Alfano, who has worked in Modesto, Turlock and Ceres, agrees that gangs and youth violence remain a prevalent issue, regardless of any city.
“Gangs have been around since the 1700s, and there will always be some form of organized crime. My perception is that the crime issue isn’t any better or worse than any other place in Stanislaus County,” said Alfano. “The question is, how can you minimize their influence and their impact?”
Superintendent Alfano is no stranger to these situations. As a youth, Alfano was forced to move out of a neighborhood due to gang related activity, and has worked with students and families afflicted with gangs and violence for 20 years.
“When you have a child who is leaning towards gangs, some parents shut down and go into denial, while others are empowered and turn their child’s life around,” said Alfano. “A parent has far more influence over their child than we do, but we can be there as a support and provide them with resources. I would say the majority of parents want to know about this sort of information, but don’t know how to receive it,” said Alfano. “I think it will make a difference to those who will attend and want to hear the message.”
Parents should not be the only members in the audience, however. According to Alfano, children should become more aware of their surroundings, as they are typically influenced by the actions of their peers on a daily basis.
“Gang life is a one way road,” said Alfano. “It either ends in death, or prison. The education kids received in school will help them lead a productive life. Joining a gang, or even being close to gang activity is counterproductive and detrimental to a child’s education, health and wellbeing.”
Cannella states the goal of the meeting is to provide parents and citizens a chance to speak personally with the representatives of their community and local government. Cannella estimates that over half of the public forum will comprise of public input.
“The public should attend this meeting so they can be heard regarding public safety concerns and how we can work together to resolve their concerns,” said Chief Hughes. “Anytime our state officials meet with our community regarding their concerns, it’s important and shows they want to work together to resolve our concerns. I am elated to have Sen. Cannella take time out of his busy schedule to come meet with Patterson residents.”
In April, Cannella presented the Realignment Reinvestment Act to the Senate Budget Committee.
The bill would have provided additional funding for front line law enforcement, jail operations, community and a variety of treatment, educational, and job training services by reinvesting money that would have otherwise been spent in the state prison system in the absence of realignment into programs at the local level. The allocation of these additional funds would also have been directly linked to the number of “realigned” offenders in each county, which is much more equitable than the current funding allocation formula.
“Senator Cannella believes we need to invest more in public safety,” said Jeff Macedo, Sen. Cannella’s communications director. “Those funds would have gone to the county to be used without mandates for the state—allowing those that are closest to the problem to invest in the programs that have the greatest impact.”
Although the program was not initiated, losing to a 5-9 vote, Cannella is hopeful that communities, such as Patterson, will bring all their current resources together to battle violent influences until additional funding for law enforcement, jail operations and training services can come into play.
According to Cannella, the community is responsible for maintaining control of the city. The best way to do so, however, is to combine bipartisan efforts.
“It ultimately takes a community to come together,” said Cannella. “We need a greater partnership. There is always help, and everyone should feel comfortable reaching out to someone for help. Trust the police. Call them. If you see something going on, report it.”
Cannella also stated the importance of knowing your surroundings, including your neighbors.
“Sometimes, we live in communities where we don’t know our own neighbors, and criminals thrive on that,” he said. “Start a neighborhood watch; become engaged in your community.”
• Contact Brooke Borba at 892-6187, ext. 24, or firstname.lastname@example.org.