SJ teens speak up to city leaders about violence

SAN JOSE, Calif.

There have been 27 people killed in San Jose so far this year and 14 of those murders have been connected to gang violence.

It is only June and so far the city's homicide rate is already higher than it was for all of last year. So the city's youth, including many who are considered "at-risk" came up with their own solutions to help curb the violence.

One speaker said to the teens, "Stand up if you've ever had a gun pointed at you or you were shot at" and a good number in the group stood up.

There was no misunderstanding the message the San Jose teenagers were sending to city and county leaders Thursday. Violence in the city is rising and they want it to stop.

One speaker pointed out on "Norwalk Drive, Friday, people were beaten and robbed at gunpoint by three males."

That incident didn't take into account the 27 homicides this year in San Jose alone, 14 of which were gang related.

"I don't want us to become Oakland. That's what I'm afraid of," said San Jose resident Mauricio Marquez.

While police continue to investigate the crimes, a group of young people came up with their own solutions, which include more supervision, more police protection, and more programs.

"There need to be more patrol officers, more police officers, more security at malls and stuff because there has been a lot of fights, more security at schools," said Heather Flores, a former gang member.

They say more than half of their classmates bring weapons to school. In a simple show of hands, the majority of the students raised their hands admitting they felt unsafe. However, East Side Union High School District board member Frank Biehl disagreed with their opinion.

"The fact that they don't feel safe doesn't mean that they're not safe," said Biehl.

All of the comments are coming from kids who know, since some are former gang members who are surrounded by violence and they're tired of it. They asked the panel of leaders to commit to their recommendations, but only a few did.

"Honestly, I didn't feel like they were listening," said Flores.

The city's police chief agreed more needs to be done, but he insists change is a two-way street.

"It's really important for the safety of the community for everybody to come forward with information if they have it about what happened," said Police Chief Chris Moore.

Teenagers also recommended that police officers smile more. They say it would make them more approachable and help build trust. They went on to say, schools should have a zero-tolerance policy for anyone wearing gang colors, parents should be stricter and have a 9 p.m. curfew. You really wouldn't expect teenagers to say they want more supervision, but every young person ABC7 spoke with at the event said that they are sure that it will make a difference.

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