The Hollister City Council on Tuesday will hold a special public meeting at City Hall to discuss creating a $50,000 fund that will fund rewards for information leading to the capture of criminals. If approved at the 6 p.m. meeting, $25,000 would immediately become available as a reward for information leading to the arrest of Jose Antonio Barajas, 20, who is wanted for the shooting death of Ariana Zendejas, 19, or for information about 20-year-old Vaness Flores-Ibarra, who was last seen with Barajas on the evening of Aug. 1 and is listed as a missing person.
“We as a council believe that part of the answer in lowering crime is helping the police department with tools to help find suspects much quicker by utilizing the community for tips,” said Mayor Ignacio Velasquez. “If we can build upon the network that the chief is already using, we can lower the crime rate. In this instance, we have a person that’s wanted for murder and we have a missing girl, so I felt that it’s important that we call a special meeting to see if we can increase that reward to $25,000 to help us find the suspect and (Flores-Ibarra).” The reward money, if approved, would come from the city’s general fund.
Currently, a $1,000 reward is being offered through WeTip, which encourages anonymous tips on criminal activity. Hollister Police Chief David Westrick said the city has partnered with WeTip for seven years.
“They’ve provided us really good service,” he said, noting that Hollister is one of the few cities that funds the service for the entire county, to the tune of about $3,500 per year. “We want to get our missing folks back to their families and those that are responsible for the crimes, we want them in custody.”
Westrick called the council’s idea to create a reward fund “a great move.” “It’s proactive and unique in California that the city council is so supportive of our crime victims in this area that they feel the need to see if they can help lower crime,” he said.
Velasquez said the city next budget year will look at a way to create a reward fund “so that when a crime of this magnitude does occur, the chief will have it as his disposal right away so we can announce it and get those tips as quickly as possible. A lot of people know the answers early on so we want to make sure they’re calling the police department and understand that it’s anonymous. That’s a very big part of what makes this work.”
Westrick noted Monday that it had been nine days since the news of the murder became public “and I’m sure friends, relatives and immediate family (of the victim) are worried sick. The victim’s family needs justice and we need to seek and find this suspect and get him behind bars. There’s a lot of things at stake here and it’s important to all of us in the community that this comes to a positive resolution.”
Click here for the BenitoLink story about the wanted poster for Barajas.
Hollister City Hall is located at 375 Fifth St.