San Jose residents unite to combat crime spike

January 25, 2011 12:23:56 AM PST
San Jose city leaders say they have a pretty good idea what's causing a spike in homicides this year and they're taking urgent action to put an end to it. Much of the violence is happening in city council districts No. 5 and 7 in the southern and western parts of San Jose.

San Jose prides itself on being one of the safest large cities in the nation, but seven homicides in just the first month of the year are threatening to damage that reputation.

It was a packed emergency meeting in San Jose as they discussed the recent murders of which they believe three of the last seven were definitely gang-related.

"Have you guys found any suspects...who have done the homicide," asked Anthony Escamilla.

Escamilla wanted to know about the case of his 15-year-old friend, Oscar Gonzales. He's one of seven homicide victims this month. Police say three of those homicides are definitely gang-related, including last Friday's shooting death of an 18-year-old who was riding his bike on Story Road, near the Capitol Expressway.

"I believe that with all these budget cuts, they're shutting the doors on our young people and they're forcing them to the streets. They have nowhere to go," said Pastor Sonny Lara, a community activist.

Youth centers, all over, are closing or shortening their hours.

"This meeting is not meant to cause fear among us. Rather this is a call to action," said San Jose Vice Mayor-elect Madison Ngyuen.

At an emergency meeting in the Santee neighborhood, where many of the murders occurred, police admitted lack of money is part of the problem.

"There was never more of a time than right now, that we need to work together as partners to combat this," said Asst. Chief Diane Urban.

Patrols are limited too, so police are asking residents to get involved by reporting any gang activity.

"I need info from you in order to effectively control where my officers go to help you in your neighborhood," said Police Lt. Workman.

Some residents voiced their fear of retaliation, but community leaders want to inspire them to organize and fight back.

"You got to start taking steps to do something about it. So I really encourage you to seek out them," said one resident to another.

"Well that's why I'm here. If I didn't believe them, I wouldn't have come. I wanted to see for myself that it's not going to be a waste of my time and I'm going to stop here, I'm going to keep coming," replied the other resident.

There were signs of progress after residents promised to attend next month's meeting. It's true budget cuts are causing problems, but city leaders say the best solution is community involvement, which costs nothing.