Stockton, California, April 30, 2012 - A girl's shoe, mini skirt, teen magazine and can of cigarette butts sit along a street corner. Where prostitution is rampant, trafficking in minors is all too common. In February of this year a task force with the FBI’s Innocence Lost National Initiative arrested a Stockton man during a sting operation looking for missing teens, charging him with creating child pornography and sex trafficking.
Stockton, a city of nearly 300,000 with strong agricultural roots, has been plagued by crime and misfortune over the past several decades. It saw home construction soar nearly three times over during the boom years from 1998 to 2005, only to fall just as precipitously to become a foreclosure epicenter when the boom turned to bust. In June of this year it became the largest city to file for bankruptcy.
With a median income just two-thirds of that of the California average, Stockton has struggled for years with some of the state’s highest crime rates. The city’s violent crime rate in 2009 was higher than the national average by almost 200%; the property crime rate higher than the national average by almost 75%. It also has the second-highest murder rate in California, and last year, the city’s 58 homicides were an all-time record. This year, it’s on pace to break that record.