Urban Anarchy: City’s Bankrupt, Cops Don’t Respond Unless Blood Is Spilled

Thursday, July 19, 2012
By Paul Martin

Years of Unraveling, Then Bankruptcy for a City

July 18, 2012

STOCKTON, Calif. — This inland port on the San Joaquin River recently became the largest city in the country to declare bankruptcy, but evidence of its unraveling has been mounting for years.

It is visible in the rising domestic violence rates, booming private security businesses and a seemingly unstoppable stream of foreclosures. And it can be seen in smaller form too — at a struggling piñata shop, on the once-yellow fire hydrants faded to gray, in a case of stolen koi.

“The police don’t respond to anything unless there’s blood involved,” said Marlene Hinson, 51, who, after living here for 22 years without incident, was burglarized three times in four months, including the fish theft from her pond in a neighborhood of lush lawns and towering shade trees.

Even as some parts of the country are tentatively emerging from the worst downturn since the Great Depression, this city cannot seem to find solid ground.

While 50 miles to the north, in Sacramento, a bankruptcy judge and lawyers for Stockton and its 18 creditors have begun to sort out who owes what to whom, Stockton’s 292,000 residents have been left trying to hold together some semblance of order and respect for themselves.

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