San Jose City Leaders Make Stand Against Violence - NBC Bay Area

San Jose City Leaders Make Stand Against Violence

Year to year homicide rate actually lower in 2012.



    This week's gang task force meeting in San Jose had some VIPs in attendance. (Published Friday, Aug. 24, 2012)

    Hours after the city recorded yet another murder, San Jose's mayor  and police chief this morning announced that the city and Santa Clara County  would pool resources to increase the police presence on city streets, work with newly-freed convicts and expand efforts to discourage gang activity.

        "We are standing in solidarity against this violence," said Mayor Chuck Reed, flanked by city, county and school district officials in the  rotunda of San Jose City Hall.     The news conference came about 10 hours after the city's 33rd  homicide this year. At 10:50 p.m. Thursday, 18-year-old Armondo Miguel  Heredia was killed on South King Road in what police said was likely a  gang-related shooting.
        The shooting was San Jose's eighth violent death in the past 11  days. The city had 39 homicides in all of 2011.
        "We are looking for every opportunity to maximize officers on the  street," police Chief Chris Moore said. "I am very confident we can bring  this spike to an end."
        Thursday's murder took place soon after a prayer vigil for  homicide victims during which concerned citizens marched from a church to  Story Road in eastern San Jose.
        Reed and Moore met earlier this morning with the Gang Prevention  Task Force, which in July received $1 million in funds to suppress  gang-related violence. Police said gang members were responsible for about 40  percent of this year's murders.
        "It's always hard to pull gang members off the streets," Moore  said.
        San Jose police will allocate an additional 17 officers on the  streets by taking $800,000 from its budget for overtime pay to deploy  officers otherwise assigned to non-violent units such as K-9 and burglary.
        Funds from the San Jose police budget used to cover the overtime  are the savings the city realized after laying off police officers over the  past year, Moore said.
        San Jose police also expect to place 49 additional officers on  street duty by June 2013, Moore said.
        The Santa Clara County Sheriff's Office and the county's parole  and probation departments also will pool resources in response to the  increase in homicides, authorities said.
        The sheriff's office will focus on making arrests from outstanding  warrants, while parole officers will use proceeds from a $250,000 grant to  curtail crimes committed by people released from jail.
        Moore said that the Police Department seeks to mobilize law  enforcement "where we need it and when we need it" and "to put the  intelligence we have on streets to put these people behind bars."
        He said, "We want to send a clear message to people in San Jose  that if you're in need, we can help."
        He noted that San Jose has actually seen a decline in  gang-suspected homicides this year compared to 2011. Of the 28 murders  recorded at this date last year, half were gang-related, while 13, less than  half of this year's 33 murders, have been traced to gangs, Moore said.
        Other killings committed this year have been linked to mental  illness, homelessness, domestic violence and young people returning to school  and getting into disputes, police said.
        "I don't think you can say any one cause for the spike," Moore  said. "We are having fewer gang-related homicides than we had a year before,"  although he added that "we are seeing more guns, more shootings" this year.
        City spokeswoman Michelle McGurk said that the homicide rate this  year for San Jose, which has about 1 million residents, is actually lower  compared to other Bay Area cities with smaller populations.
        San Francisco, which has about 750,000 residents, has had 45  homicides in 2012 while Oakland, with about a third of the population of San  Jose, has had 75.
        In another attempt to curb gangs, youth intervention workers from  the city's Park and Recreation Department will be dispatched at night into  areas known for gang activity to talk, suggest alternatives to the gang  lifestyle and reach out to minimize retaliations involving rival gangs,  according to David Vossbrink, the city's director of communications.
        Some of the recent gang violence in San Jose has resulted from  rivalries between two Latino gangs, police said.
        Moore acknowledged that recent layoffs of San Jose officers have  had an impact and that the department has had to make do by paying overtime  to the officers it has from the non-violent crime units to expand police  presence in reaction to recent homicides.
        "We have always been understaffed, and now more than ever," he  said.
        "What we have seen is a spike in homicides," Santa Clara County  District Attorney Jeff Rosen said. "It's too early to say it's a trend. The  message from the district attorney is that they will be prosecuted to the  full extent of the law."
        Rosen said, "We will protect the public by sending violent  criminals away for a very, very long time."