San Jose city leaders focus on youth violence

(KGO)
June 22, 2012 12:37:11 PM PDT
San Jose's mayor, police chief, and the family of a young murder victim are putting their heads together to address youth violence in their community.

Police say that right now is a critical time to address the issue. The beginning of the summer season typically means an uptick in crimes committed by young people and it has already been an especially violent year for teenagers in San Jose.

The beating death of 14-year old Heriberto Reyes at Roosevelt Park in April impacted several segments of the community including, of course, his family who is devastated. His murder remains unsolved. "We want the community to help us find the people that did this to my little brother," said Reyes' sister Blanca. "We want justice."

There are also the emergency workers who try to save young victims of violence. "When we lose a young patient, it's traumatic and it's senseless and we wonder what type of life that person might have," said Dr. Elaine Nelson at Valley Medical Center.

And, there are the police officers who are trying to prevent violent crimes but are watching as a number of them go up. "This year, we've had 19 homicides. However, what's alarming, what we're concerned about is six of those have been individuals who have been 14 to 18 years of age and that's very concerning," Lt. James Randal said.

San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed's gang task force has decided to respond with new techniques. The first part of the plan is to engage the faith leaders of the community. "We recognize that there isn't a community center or library in each one of our hot spots but in almost each and every one, we found three to four faith facilities," explained Mariel Maciel with the gang task force.

Another part of the plan is trying to reach young people when they are in the hospital. A new street outreach team will talk to those involved in gang violence while they're at Valley Medical Center. "There's probably no better time than when someone is on the edge of death due to knifing or shooting, that they might have an open mind about maybe considering something different," Reed said. "So, that's one of the things we're doing at Valley Medical Center, to use that window of opportunity."

They will also be adding additional outreach workers to talk to teenagers and try to direct them away from a life as a gang member. One critical addition they will be adding to the gang task force this summer is money. They are going to redirect about $2 million towards this effort.


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