San Jose’s 2nd Gang War has Begun

By Enrique Flores

In just 10 days this August, seven of our San Jose residents were killed, and five more are recovering from gun shot wounds. Some call this a “spike” in violence, I call it “The Start of the Second War.”

This is not an anomaly. Those community members older than 30 years old, who lived in Gang Abatement Zones during the late 1980’s and early 1990’s, know. You see, there is a huge difference between “a spike in gang violence” and “war.” Once a war begins, it is almost impossible to stop. The First War, during of the late 1980’s and early 1990’s, lasted 10 years, and was marked by every day violence. “War” in any context is violence that occurs “on sight.” There is no “taking turns, waiting for retaliation.”

Our city leaders should not act surprised at this new level of violence. In fact, I voiced the “Mayday” alarm early. Others have done so as well. For the past seven years, we have been warning city and community leaders during one-on-one meetings and during collaborative meetings. Two years ago I wrote in a Mercury News Op-Ed piece that we were on the cusp of this Second War. Sadly, these warnings fell on deaf ears and were disregarded by many as alarmism.

This second war may perplex some, but we—those who were traumatized by the 1st war—saw this second “Tsunami” wave coming years in advance. Many moved away in order to spare their children from such hell on earth. Others became numb, and stood by looking at the waters receding slowly.

Now we are here. At the start of the Second War. Sadly, it is too late for prevention talk. Now is the time for relentless intervention efforts. However, I predict this Second War will be worse than the first for three reasons:

1. Our younger generation has been desensitized to violence by the 2nd grade. 
2. Guns are now utilized more often as weapons of choice, thanks in part to the sale of toy guns which teach children how to load 10 “bullets” into a magazine clip and chamber each round by pulling the slide.
3. Our society’s failure to create sufficient job opportunities and livable wages have created the conditions for self-destructive despair. Our unwillingness to fund effective prevention and intervention programs is now evident. Defunding mentoring programs, community centers and reducing police response time has created the perfect storm. Now the storm is here. We must all unite to save as many as we can.

The truth is, gang members are NOT monsters. Gang members are part of our community. They are a mirror—our sons, daughters, cousins, neighbors—reflecting back their pain caused by our society’s gross negligence. The truth is: Behavior is language. And since 2003, our teens and young adults have been “talking” to us via these “spikes” of gang violence. But too many of our leaders failed to listen. If we care to listen, we must ask, “What are the teens and young adults saying to us when they get multiple tattoos on their faces? What are our teens and young adults saying when they physically assault, stab, and kill in broad daylight?” The answer is heart-breaking: They are telling us about the death of their dreams. They are telling us that they no longer believe that home ownership, a quality education, and their ultimate career aspirations are realistic goals.

Now, more than ever, is the time to restore hope. Now is the time to fight for more funding. Now is the time to declare war on poverty and despair. Now is the time to embrace all in kinship and realize that those who we believe deserve love the least, are actually the ones that need it the most.

Enrique Flores is the founder of Eastside Heroes, a mentoring non-profit, director of the Corozon Project in East San Jose, and a policy aide for Supervisor Dave Cortese. He wrote this for San Jose Inside.

26 Comments

  1. San Jose has always had gang problems.  But the issue is that SJPD had a handle on the gang issue. That despite many many gangs, San Jose was the safest city in America. 

    Secondly SJPD was known as the model police department nation wide. ABC news consistently spoke about SJPD as a model police department.  This is due to Chief McNamara era and that SJPD requires college education to work there. Numerous officers have PHD, Masters etc.  There was a time up to the time Mayor Reed took over as Mayor that every officer in the nation wanted to work for SJPD. The reputation was just that good. No SJPD officers ever left for another department. And the few who did would go to the FBI or what one would think might be a step up. But they would later come back.  No police department could match SJPD. 

    BUT now Mayor Reed has dismantled the police dept.  Almost 1600 cops in 2010 now less then a thousand. Over 300 retirements, and officers are leaving at one a day.  Mayor Reed got rid of 30 civilians in the crime prevention unit. These civilians had both intervention programs and prevention programs. Both these SJPD programs were a standard for the state. I traveled to Sacramento to talk about the intervention programs for gangs.  Reed got rid of the auto theft unit, gang unit, violent crime detail, mounted unit, parks enforcement unit, burglary unit, on and on… in any part of the city where there use to be 7 officers with some type of special unit backing these seven patrol officer up now there is 3 officers with no special units for them to call upon. 

    San Jose has lost control of controlling the gangs.  It will take 10-15 years to fix the gang issue.

    • Protecting SJ you are no longer allowed to use the word “cut” when discussing SJPD and the various units that have ceased to exist during Mayor Reed’s regime.  Also, please refrain from discussing the fact that SJPD has significantly fewer officers now than it had when Mayor Reed took office.  Sometime in the last week an unwritten order came out which directs supervisors to instruct their subordinates that any reduction in staffing within department units is now to be referred to as a “redeployment of resources.”

      Example 1: Employees have not left SJPD for greener pastures as a result of anything the City has done. Employees who left chose to “redeploy” themselves to other employment.

      Example 2:  Many officers have chosen to redeploy to other jobs leaving patrol with fewer officers and open beats. The department was forced to redeploy resources from VCET(or vice or burglary or motors…) to staff patrol.

      Example 3: VCET ( or what ever unit you used to say was “cut” ) exists on paper but all personnel/resources where “redeployed” to staff temporary shortages* in patrol. 

      *The temporary shortages are only temporary because there are folks waiting to redeploy to the academy the to FTO and finally to the beat structure provides they don’t get redeployed back to wherever they came from.

      Further Mayor Reed and certain members of the City Council have told the chief to tell SJPD members to CEASE telling the public to “call or email the mayor and their Councilmember to complain if they are unhappy with SJPD’s response time or any other issue related to the redeployments.”  They are so busy dealing with the complaints that their staff is not able to handle anything else. 

      SOUNDS LIKE IT IS WORKING SO DEAL WITH IT REED!

      • Meyer Weed . you are so Correct! Im holding up a finger but guess what its not my index finger! I could care less what the dishonorable Mayor Reed or His plus 5 want as a city employee and a San Jose Resident I will continue to tell people the truth ( or just ask them to look around ) . I am sick of all this “politico Speak” , I guess the truth is just to much for some. There will come a time when Reed + 5 will have to answer for what they have done to this city and its employees

    • I think things like community centers and libraries are great and we’ll have more of them since we have freed up money since November. Primarily, though, it is good parenting that can help stop this gang mentality. I live on the east side, and I have children and I can assure you they will never be in a gang because I’m not raising them to be that way. I recently saw an article about some guy who was kicked out of a party and returned with a gun and shot out a window. No politician was responsible for that, it was just the way he was raised. Bad parent, no doughnut.

      • YOUR WRONG.. The mayor should be held accountable… There were prevention programs and intervention programs that could have helped this child the mayor got rid of them.. See is EZ when you white and live in willow glen…. just blame by parents… but many kids are from broken homes.. a mom that works 60 hours and kids that are raising other siblings.. these programs would benefit them.. but REED does not care… or he would have left them alone..

        • Obviously you don’t know about this story. This was a 21 year old convicted felon. Are you saying these people are raised by mothers working 60 hours a week?
          If we didn’t spend so much money on cops and firemen who fake disability pensions, maybe we could do more.

      • Just how much money has the city “saved”? Last I checked the city has done nothing but prepare for a legal battle (reserve money), lose officers to retirement (pay money), lose officers to resignations (a loss of investment), authorize about 800k for overtime to place a band aid on the police department’s short staffing problem (spend money) and lastly, give away real estate to a billionaire (waste resources). Where are these savings you speak of?

        You are absolutely correct that good parenting is the best way to prevent kids from getting involved in gangs. Good parenting will do nothing to keep your kids safe from the gang members already out there, the police would if they had the ability to be proactive.

        The incident you referenced about the guy who returned to the party, he was apprehended, by you guessed it, law enforcement! That wasn’t even in San Jose, but the guy was a San Jose resident. Aren’t you happy that he’s just one example of the many nuisances roaming around the city unchecked?

        • Steve , you ask some real GOOD questions. I wonder if we will ever get a Real/Honest answer. Sadly my guess is no . I pains me to say Im am a Lifelong San Jose Resident who USED to be proud of this city. I am profoundly disgusted with what Reed +5 have done to this once proud city

  2. I am also a life long East San Jose resident and I find it more than a little offensive and opportunistic to call the recent spike in murders an ESSJ and youth problem. 

    6 of the 10 districts experienced murders.  Only a couple were deemed gang related.  I understand Mr Flores has a side business that is dependent on the youth gang problem but to create an uproar around a trumped up problem is terrible. 

    That doesn’t mean there isn’t issues with lack of resources to young people.  This spike in violence can be tied more directly to the cuts made to youth programming over the last decade (library cuts, parks and rec cuts, youth center cuts, early release programs from jail and shorter probation sentences) than the cuts in police.  The affects of the police cuts will be felt a little further down the line with enforcement and suppression comes into play.

    I admire Mr Flores conviction but he does our community no favors by making people think there a simple solution to the crime and violence in this city. 

    It would be unfortunate if Mr Flores’ boss, Dave Cortese is using this as a way to lay an inroad for his Mayoral run.  Mr Cortese should focus more on repairing his reputation after making the huge mistake of backing Patricia Roach in his council district.

    • Aware D5, I think that the focus on the homicides – while dramatic and salacious enough for the Murky News to use to peddle their garbage – is a bit misguided. The reality is that the homicides are simply the worst outcomes of decades of mismanagement, neglect, and willful ignorance on the part of politicians and of irresponsible and borderline absentee parenting, among other social ills. As well, I think the willingness of society to rationalize this exceptionally bad/criminal behavior while failing to hold children and parents accountable plays a significant role. With over 12 years in Law Enforcement, I have seen the outcomes of these various failings firsthand.

      Even though you rarely – if ever – read about the rising violence in the Murky News, it’s there and not just in homicides or gun violence. Those are merely the most salacious and ones which fit the institutional anti-gun mindset of the Murk. The SJPD blotter is accessible online and would give you a far better notion of what is really going on in the city on a day to day basis. I suspect the average reader would find the information available there to be pretty shocking.

      I think that it is worth noting that the only reason we have not seen more homicides per capita than we have (as compared to say 10-25years ago) is because the state of emergency medicine has advance so significantly. Drawing a parallel to another type of war, major advances in emergency medicine is attributed to the comparatively low numbers of deaths in, say, Israel, attributable to acts of terrorism, or of American Marines, soldiers, sailors, airmen etc in our own war on terror. Bottom line: more people are surviving injuries which are so severe that the would have been fatal in decades past.

      As well, I am not sure that Mr. Flores is providing an overly-simplistic solution to the problem, merely one solution out of many, but one in which he happens to believe and be personally invested. We all know that solutions will be difficult, complicated, numerous and only achieved in the long term.

      I also agree with you that the problems we are dealing with as a result of cuts to SJPD are simply the tip of the iceberg and that this Gang War, as Mr. Flores correctly names it, is really just beginning. In the long term, the lack of PD resources will mean that more and more officers will be *ahem* redeployed from investigative units, just to triage the violence out in the field. The amazing investigative work done by the PD is, frankly a thing of the past – due largely to the loss of institutional knowledge of extremely experienced officers who *ahem* redeployed from investigative units and those who are leaving the PD for other agencies with a long and diverse service history with SJPD. This is unprecedented as it was vanishingly rare for officer with 10, 15, 20 years with the PD to leave for other agencies. Now, though, many have no choice but to do so, simply to keep up with their bills.

      Finally, I agree with you about the need for Mr. Cortese to work on repairing his reputation. Nonetheless, in my estimation, he remains a far better mayoral candidate than anyone currently on the City Council who is currently touted as a possibility. I have met him a couple of times and even though I don’t agree with him across the board, my take on him is that he will listen, is thoughtful, and, rather more principled than most of those on the Council (yes, I am aware that there are a couple of notable exceptions).

  3. Very well stated Enrique.

    Now tell Jethro Moore and Richard Konda to man up and get real. They were on the news screaming racial profiling and accusing law enforcement of treating criminals unfairly, and violating their rights. They need to try asking the families of these victims of homicides how many rights THEY have when their family member is murdered! I NEVER see those two reaching out to victims of violent crime, I only see them defending the offenders. It is just sickening!

    You need to pull those two into your effort to prevent gang wars, and get them to start being a part of the solution instead of ALWAYS being part of the problem.

    On another note: YES, you are right. It takes a village to raise our kids, but parents need to STOP being in denial about the problems that go on in their OWN homes. They need to take classes through the DA’s Parent Project to educate themselves on how to handle “at risk youth.” They need to get involved in organizing Neighborhood Watch Programs, and reaching out to the many non profits that offer services to families in crisis. They need to get help for their at risk, and mentally ill family members instead of giving up on them.

    As to education, every organization I know of offers some kind of scholarship program. How come these parents aren’t researching them and applying for them? There is absolutely NO excuse for these kids to feel hopeless, and remain uneducated when there are so many scholarships, and grant programs available to assist them!

    • You’re right Kathleen to point out the variety of opportunities that are available to young people and their parents. Flores and many other “do-gooders” do us all a huge disservice when they spread the false, yet poisonous idea that young people are justified in their hopelessness and that rather than take responsibility for their own lives it’s acceptable for them to blame “society”.

    • Wrong. Families have to take responsibility for their actions. The Mayor didn’t cause someone high on PCP to kill someone else. You knew when you wrote that it wasn’t true. Shame on you.

      • THE MAYOR actually did… you see if there was still a gang unit and drug unit and crime prevention unit in the police department the police may have stopped that person from getting high on PCP.  And truth is people on PCP usually do not shoot people with guns.  If you take away all the police there is know one to enforce the norms of society.  So whos fault is it that all the police are gone…Mayor Reed.

        • I don’t think the Mayor is responsible for the PD’s budget. I think it is the Police Chief and City Manager. Does anyone know?

        • There will be more police in 3 years than there are now. By the way, are you a retired cop. Was it disability or real. Do you even live in San Jose?

        • Police deserve a 100% retirement after 30 years because they are forced to deal with people like “Prescient”(cough cough) on a daily basis. I’m so glad he professes to being an east side San Jose Taxpayer so he pays personally for all those disability retirements too.
          Love,
          Twigger

      • Who the hell is this prescient fool? We cant even take you seriously. You are embarrassing yourself. Just stop. Its clear you are one of the tower minions. It disgusts me if my tax dollars are paying for you to romp like a child on the keyboard during work. But actually it shouldnt surprise any of us…. Most dishonest city government since The City of Bell!

  4. > They are telling us about the death of their dreams. They are telling us that they no longer believe that home ownership, a quality education, and their ultimate career aspirations are realistic goals.

    Maybe they have heard about eugenics and realize what the eugenicists want to do to black, brown, yellow, white, and indiginous people.

    That would certainly kill anyone’s dreams and make any career goals meaningliss.

  5. Funny how the Mercy News tells us to retain SJPD, but slam the same officers for following the very contract the council signed off on.  The officers did nothing wrong, the council (Chuck) signed off on the very contract that Pete enjoys.

    Hell I would jump ship ASAP, before the city tries to take away benefits granted under contract.  Chuck, you signed off on the current contract.  Change it for new hires, but do not punish current employees with your BS numbers.

    I feel sorry for this city when the courts overturn Measure B,  Will than be general funds or another secert fund, when you have to pay back all the money?

    Smells like a tax increase!

  6. Everybody talks about the 33 homicides. Nobody talks about the 275 attempted murders in the city of San Jose. I’ve been to three shootings where the victim had no business surviving. If it wasn’t for Regional Medical Center and Valley Medical Center we would be well over 100 homicides.

    What else bothers me, is the way we track the statistics. They call them “assault with deadly weapon” or “ADW.” Last time I checked, when someone sticks a piece of metal in your chest or shoots a projectile into your head and your lucky to survive it’s called attempted homicide. Just another way the hide’s it’s problems with the out of control gang problem in the great city of San Jose. Way to go Chuck and his 5 clowns.

  7. Uh oh…..SJPD’s TABs unit is being eliminated this week, more burglaries (burglary unit eliminated) and more gang violence on the way…Good job mayor reed and chief figone….hopefully you budgeted for more orange crime scene tape…stay crappy san jose

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