Army of Parents Reclaims Neighborhood

With Violence Rising, Parents Vow Not to Let Streets Go

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    NEWSLETTERS

    Damian Trujillo

    The corner of Oak and State Streets in San Jose is where many children begin preparing for class.

    It's across the street from Washington Elementary, a community where income is low, but self pride is high.

    It's also an intersection where violence has crept up in recent weeks.

    The house on the corner has a tiny hole in it, surrounded by a yellow painted circle.It's where a bullet lodged after a recent drive-by shooting.

    "I know a lot of kids see shootings, fighting," said Juan Villalobos, a parent of three children who attend Washington.

    Villalobos is not one to talk with out action, so he formed the group Washington Camina Contigo, or Washington Walks With You.

    His army is a group of similarly concerned parents, who vow to take the streets back.

    They wear bright lime green vests, carrying nothing more than a flashlight, a whistle, and a sense of pride.

    Today, they began walking children to school. 20 parents who'll canvass the streets surrounding Washington Elementary, providing a safety net for kids, a chaperon of sorts, making sure children reach school safely.

    There's also the looming threat of losing crossing guards city wide, to the budget. 

    "The most important thing is security for the kids, because I know, a lot of things happen around the school," said Villalobos.

    The group held a debriefing inside the library of Washington Elementary.

    Last week, only 2 parents were on board. Today, they are an army of 20, and growing.

    "I think it's a perfect model," said Ruth Cueto, aide to Councilman Sam Liccardo. "You have parents interested, a little bit of time in the mornings and in the afternoons, and people at city hall are listening.'

     Two other San Jose neighborhoods are also tinkering with the idea, forming their own neighborhood armies, vowing to keep the streets and their children safe.