By: M.L. Stein
WITH SPECIAL SECTIONS like Bleeding Colors, which focused on youth gangs, the West County Times has highlighted crime in its San Francisco East Bay circulation area.
But the daily is going beyond news coverage and editorials to help fight crime. It is working with local agencies, businesses and residents to identify the problem and foster solutions.
The Times, a Lesher Communications Inc. paper, is a member of the Hilltop Community Association, which has raised more than $75,000 to place a police substation at a crime-ridden Richmond shopping mall. As a result, crime dropped 40% there in the past year, it was reported.
In addition, Times general manager Bill James, who represents the paper on the community association, volunteered to form a Richmond Chamber of Commerce task force to develop strategies to combat crime.
In the past year, more than 30 people have died in Richmond, victims of violent crimes.
The task force recommended that community businesses, including the Times, provide funds for training and scholarships, work with school kids through Adopt-A-School programs and sponsor Newspaper in Education programs.
The cooperation between the task force and city agencies sparked a Unity March Against Violence in which some 300 residents paraded downtown, singing and praying for a peaceful city.
“The role of a community newspaper should be more than just reporting the news,” James said.
“It should also be helping initiate positive change.