Tony West is thrilled to be back in the Bay Area. The San Jose native and former local prosecutor is now the No. 3 man at the Justice Department. He's back in the Bay Area in support of San Jose's many programs to help prevent and reduce gang violence.
"I think it is a willingness to try new ideas; to recognize when things are not working and that entrepreneurial spirit when they are not and try, try, try and fail, try, and then try and succeed," he said.
The high powered visit comes one day after two shooting in San Jose that could be gang-related. They were hours apart, took place in the middle of the day and left one man dead and another in critical condition. An understaffed police department had to call in some officers on overtime to handle the situation.
"It's a ballet, it's carefully choreographed; it's not ideal with the level of staffing we have but we were able to make it work yesterday," San Jose Police Chief Chris Moore said.
Despite challenges, San Jose is recognized for establishing a multi-targeted approach to gang violence that involves prevention, intervention and suppression. San Jose is one of six cities including Salinas, Memphis, Detroit, Chicago and Boston which make up the National Forum on Youth Prevention, a coalition of cities learning from each other.
"I can tell you the representatives from the other cities that are part of the forum absolutely look to San Jose as a leader, absolutely look to San Jose for ideas," U.S Attorney Melinda Haag said.
Aaron Carrera represents one of those innovative programs. He lived in a gang infested neighborhood, was stabbed at age 15 and now spends his time steering other young people and even adults down a better path.
"It's a great feeling when you have a 24-year-old that just came out of prison comes and talks to you and says I am ready to change, I need help and, you know, how can you help me," Carrera said.
Leaders at the Justice Department say it's that spirit helping to create a better life for young people in San Jose and nationwide.