STOCKTON —Community advocates in Stockton are concerned for the safety of homeless people in Stockton after a series of killings that, in some cases, the victims were homeless.
Toni McNeil is the lead community organizer for Faith in the Valley. This organization focuses on social justice and works with the community and faith-based organizations to do their work.
McNeil's focus is on transformative and restorative justice, which includes gun violence. She said she is concerned for the homeless victims because they did not have the safety or security of a building or home to protect themselves.
Five deadly shootings from July 2022 to September 2022 have been linked through ballistics, meeting the definition of a serial killer.
The same killer was also linked to two shootings in 2021, one deadly and the other the only known survivor of the person filmed on security cameras at multiple scenes.
"Now, you're talking about a whole other layer; there's not a security gate you can hide behind; you can't park in a garage," said McNeil.
She said conversations, like the ones hosted by Faith in the Valley on Wednesday night, should be focused on defining what a "safe space" looks like for each community.
McNeil said information for those who live on the streets and those who may not speak English is critical.
Translators were available on Wednesday at the Community Townhall Meeting, hosted by Faith in the Valley, to accommodate the community's needs.
McNeil said community advocates do not overlook that, according to Stockton Police, most of the victims were Hispanic men.
According to CEO David Midura, the Gospel Rescue Mission in Stockton is advising people who are homeless to seek shelter because there is availability.
Midura told CBS13 there is space and food available.
"One of the things is telling people not to be alone, to be in groups, seems to be people are being singled out, so, therefore, being with other people, it's much safer," said Midura.
Stockton Police Chief Stanley McFadden said in a news conference on Tuesday that one population is not more at risk than another, but people outside alone late at night or early in the morning may be more at risk.
"I would say, any individual homeless or not, out on their own, sleeping somewhere or in their car a few hours before they go to work probably is not the best thing to do at any moment in time," said McFadden.
Community advocates say they understand that message, but people who live unhoused are, statistically, at a higher risk of violence.
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