San Jose city leaders combat gang-related crime

SAN JOSE, Calif.

The city is trying to reduce violent crime, heavily concentrated in neighborhoods such as the one around Overfelt High School. The greatest concentration of gang related crime is in East San Jose where town hall meetings will be held in the coming weeks.

Giving the community a chance to voice their concerns will give task force members, including Cora Tomalinas important feedback for a strategic plan for the next two years.

"I think the community is frustrated sometimes; especially, when they're not given the time to vent and say, 'Wait a minute, you're on that side of the city and I'm living here, and I have problems here. Why aren't you here,'" she said.

San Jose is spending $4.6 million this year on gang prevention, plus another million from state and federal grants.

Among the ways that San Jose is spending that money is through interventions. Sending a staff member out to Valley Medical Center to talk to any person who is a victim of a shooting or stabbing, that is gang-related. Other programs the task force funds are starting to produce results.

"This year we are at eight gang-related homicides as opposed to last year about this time we were probably at 14 or 16. We ended those last two years with 18 gang-related homicides. There have been quantifiable improvements," said Gang Prevention Task Force Superintendent Mario Maciel.

Gang-related violent crime is also down. There were 93 instances during the summer months last year, versus 84 this year.

School leaders recognize they need to make changes as well.

"Our system has been around for a hundred years, and education is traditionally slow to change. And so, we have to create as many different pathways for kids to be successful so that when they leave our system, they are college and career ready," said East Side Union High School District Superintendent Chris Funk.

The new strategic plan is expected to be ready in the spring.

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