More graffiti, younger gang members and a lack of resources. That’s just some of what community members in San Jose are telling the Mayor’s Gang Prevention Task Force has to change.
At Wednesday’s task force public meeting, one of the last, no mention was made of the city’s independent audit, which showed the city’s crime rate rising and San Jose police arrests and crime-solving on the decline.
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Several community members told representatives of the task force that crime in their neighborhood is the worst it’s been in 20 years.
Jose Romeo said, in recent years, sales are down by about half because of gang crime and blight in the neighborhood. And there’s not much he can do.
He said, when he confronted a group of 8- and 10-year olds tagging the business next door, they tried to beat him up.
The head of the Story Road business association isn’t surprised.
“I live in that neighborhood too for over 20 years, and this is the worst I’ve ever seen,” Aaron Resendez said.
Wednesday’s meeting marked the first time task force representatives met with members of the Story Road Business Association. Members say gang activity is driving away customers and costing business owners money.
One business owner said several men involved in a fight outside his restaurant crashed through the window. Another said his restaurant was robbed about 10 days ago.
When the members of task force asked what needs to change, this community echoed what a lot of other folks have said at similar meetings: more police response, more code enforcement and greater outreach to kids at a younger age.
“If you want to talk about prevention, work with those elementary kids as soon as they come out,” Resendez said. “They think, in their neighborhoods, that’s how it is, and that’s not okay.”
Resendez said upstanding citizens don’t want to leave -- and couldn’t if they did want to because the crime is hurting their home values.
The Mayor’s Gang Task Force has been gathering community input over the last two months at about 20 focus groups like Wednesday’s, as well as at four major town hall meetings, with business associations, parent groups, school groups, even the trauma unit at Valley Medical Center.
“I think a lot of the community is saying that the youth are getting younger, and they want more intervention at a younger or earlier age,” said the Mayor’s Gang Prevention Task Force’s Kevin Hirabayashi.
But prevention is just one part of the solution. The other is enforcement.
According to the city’s independent auditor, the major crime rate went up by more than 30 percent in the last 10 years, arrests decreased by nearly a half in five years, and the San Jose Police Department closed about 15 percent fewer cases than the state and national average.
The Mayor’s Gang Prevention Task Force will analyze the input over the next few months and will present its strategic plan to the city council as early as the spring.