San Jose holds crime, gang prevention summit

January 22, 2011 5:13:48 PM PST
San Jose leaders are admitting that their city has a gang problem and it was evident Friday night on the eve before the city's Gang Prevention Summit.

The urgency of Saturday's summit is all too real. The Crime and Gang Prevention Summit brought several groups together to combat a problem that has been top of mind for city officials and community leaders. Everyone at the summit had the same goal, to clean up San Jose. But, it is not just about a physical change, it is about an overall transformation away from drugs, crime and gangs.

San Jose has a gang problem and that is the main reason the city organized the summit. It comes just one day after a gang-related murder at Story and Capital Expressway. Police say a 17-year-old shot and killed an 18-year-old as he rode his bike. It was the city's 17th homicide since January 1.

"You can't arrest your way out of this problem," says San Jose Police Capt. Eddie Garcia.

So, the focus in San Jose is on prevention, intervention and suppression. For the first time, the city is asking faith-based groups to take a leading role in the effort. However, the decision is not just spiritual, it is also economic.

"In limited resource times, they have facilities, they have the sweat equity, volunteers, mentors, that come out of their parishes in large volumes, and that's really what we need, more adult interaction with these youth," says Mario Marcel with the Gang Prevention Task Force.

Former gang member Danny Perez says adults are the key.

"When your mom and dad has to work all day, and you got down time, the down time is when you're hanging out in the streets, and I just thought it was the right thing to do," he says.

Olga Madera was at the summit with her son. She is worried about the crime in her neighborhood. The Maderas live just a few blocks from Friday night's shooting.

"To hear this, it's kind of hard," she says. "What about if we're walking by and they're just fighting or shooting each other, and it might go to my kids or it might go to me?"

As part of the outreach the city is offering, volunteers will be contacting both the victims' and the suspects' families to offer help with services, finances and getting out of the gang life.