On Gangs and Doing the Right Thing

The Mayor’s Gang Prevention Task Force held its fifth annual community summit Saturday, and more than a hundred San Jose residents were in attendance. This task force started in 1993, spanning the terms of three mayors, three district attorneys and five police chiefs. The Department of Justice believes that the Mayor’s Gang Prevention Task Force is a model to be emulated by other cities across the USA.

The summit had four different breakout sessions. I attended the following three: promoting Neighborhood Watch programs, recognizing distinguishing characteristics of different gangs, and gang exiting strategies from a female, Latina perspective.

For me, much of the information presented at the meeting served as an unfortunate reminder of the havoc gangs create in our communities. From youth violence and drug trafficking to prostitution and other forms of organized crime, gangs represent one of the single most detrimental forces in society. Gangs rob individuals of their personal freedoms and introduce unwelcome violence into our neighborhoods. Organized crime impedes the legitimate economic activity that allows communities to prosper. This much I already knew.

What I was surprised to learn is that gangs use social media in a very effective fashion, sharing information and communicating across platforms, such as Facebook, with affiliates in different cities. This expanded reach ensures that gang-related activity does not stop at neighborhood, state or country lines. Indeed, countries and cities throughout the world struggle with this challenge. But the fact remains: Gangs are more organized now than ever before, and we must be organized in our efforts to curb their expansion and appeal.

To this end, I am hoping residents will join city officials in recommitting to crime prevention practices. This includes watching out for and reporting suspicious behavior, block by block, via the Neighborhood Watch program. For its part, the city will continue the good work currently underway by the Mayor’s Gang Prevention Task Force, including but not limited to community engagement and youth intervention programs. In addition, we should prioritize filling existing vacancies in the police department to augment gang suppression efforts.

The sad truth of the matter is that gangs will never disappear entirely, even from the most vigilant and proactive of communities. A city can never have complete control over the unpredictable nature of select deviants, or be held responsible for the unfortunate choices these individuals sometimes make. Fortunately, we have many hardworking and sincere people in San Jose who are doing their best to prevent young people from making choices that may lead to a life spent in and out of jail. This gives me hope, because—given the opportunity—I feel that most youth will see the wisdom in choosing the path of non-violence.

For those of you who were unable to attend the summit and want to learn more, click here.


  1. Interesting that you left out the most important factor in suppressing gang violence…the police.  But I guess it’s not surprising, given that you share responsibility for helping to decimate SJPD, thereby providing gangs with a much more comfortable environment in which to inflict their misery.  Nice job, Oliverio.

    • My apologies.  You actually did devote one sentence to the police in the second to last paragraph.  You said that they “augment” gang suppression efforts.  What a breathtaking level of ignorance.  In truth, it is the other programs you named which augment the efforts of the police.  The more gangs are allowed to operate freely in neighborhoods, the more powerful they appear and the more attractive they seem to young kids who are at risk.  You, Oliverio, have helped to create an atmosphere that is more conducive than it has been in years to allowing gangs to recruit their newest and youngest members.

  2. Can neighborhoods still get assistance with Neighborhood Watch?  Who would a person contact to set that up?  The police or the Council person?

  3. PO,

    Merky news sunday addition read like San Jose has the gang problems under control by attacking the problem and Chuck’s statements sounds like not problems here.

    Wow less than 300 attend.  Only had 18 gang related murders last year and gee had another one Sunday night.  At least 2 of the four murders so far this year are gang related.

    But Chuck thinks no relationship to Measure B.  Wrong.  Same goes for graffiti problems.  Thanks what happens when you eliminate the VCET (street gang enforcement unit) and get rid of the Graffiti Enforcement Unit.  You can’t out source graffiti to a company only paid to paint over tag, most of which are gang related..  You need officers to investigate and prosecute these cases.

    Don’t ask community to get in the middle of a gang problem.  You report gang activity and your house gets shot up in a drive by.

    You voted for this now all of us have to pay the price.  Our police department will never recover and gangs know this, probably need 20 more officers assigned to the homicide unit alone.  We are Oakland, pick up the body and go back to calls for service.  Very sad state of the city.

  4. Pierre , you , the Mayor and the rest of your “GANG” are directly to blame for the City’s gang Problem .  Hold Meetings all you want , it will do nothing to curtail the Violence and Graffitti problems . I know it must come as a shock to you , but not all Gang members are illiterate…………some can actually read, write and yes use social media to their advantage . Its a different world than growing up in Willow Glen , a world that you would and could never understand . Its just funny to me that not once in your Rant did you ever bring up the severe shortage of Public Safety . Anyone with half a brain can see the correlation between Less public safety = Increased Crime . So you and the Mayor can continue to try and paint a rosy picture , but the truth is , San Jose is circling the drain .

  5. It’ll only continue to get worse. Pierluigi, you and the rest of the council who voted to put Measure B on the ballot are now simply stuck in the tide. Yes, the city can hire more police officers and put a dent in the problem. The reality of this is that the “dent” will be small and it won’t be seen for at least three years.

    The VCET unit has to be reinstated ASAP. There needs to be a street level team of Officers who go out and TALK to gang members all day long. Yes Ladoris, talk.. When VCET disappeared and these gang members and their prospective youths all noticed that 6 out of 7 days a week they could now walk around flagging, loitering, and for lack of a better term stomp around their neighborhoods without any notice from the police, things began to get worse.

  6. I was previously unaware of the far-reaching effect of social media with regards to gangs, thanks for the new info. 

    Getting engaged, communicating with our neighbors, and immediately reporting suspicious activity (via a Neighborhood Watch program, whether in an official capacity or not) seems like the best thing we can collectively do while the City’s police force is understaffed and our streets under increased siege by gang activity. 

    Until the City’s fiscal outlook improves and police and gang prevention efforts are restored, we need to do more with less and do our best to react to what is happening on each of the streets we live on.  Others’ negative posts to your column do nothing to improve the situation; I equate those posts to yelling at the refs after the Super Bowl is over.

  7. “This includes watching out for and reporting suspicious behavior, block by block, via the Neighborhood Watch program.”

    We all know SJPD does not have the manpower to respond to suspicious behavior calls. Why are you deceiving residents with such advice?  Our city council appears unwilling to face the reality of SJPD’s disintegration.

  8. PO you and Rose and Pete are SO CLUELESS! I knew gangs were using social media several years ago. This is new to you? OUT OF TOUCH! While working VCET we knew who the shot callers were of every gang. We took polaroids of the gangsters and had their names and monikers until the council and city manager ordered us to stop keeping “book” on gang members. Stick to what you know ie pushing paper and talking out of your backside. We will stick to doing what we used to do best!! Suppressing crime and keeping SJ as a safe large city while having less cops. Yes 1400 wasnt enough back then and now 900 certainly isnt enough. Contrary to what your new bumbling friend Khamis states , cops will be flooding the exit gates if Measure B is passed. How many do you think will be left after this PLO? 600 or maybe 700 if you’re lucky. What will you tell the citizens and or parents of the crime victims? Who are you going to blame. The public is finally waking up so the gig is up pal. You guys and your Mayors gang summit. Its great you guys educated yourselves somewhat but how does that get applied in the real world? You had cops with great expertise that wanted to work gangs. You kicked it to the curb. Good going buddy you should be proud of yourself. WG residents are getting pretty upset too now that the real crime is trickling into youre little utopian district. You have blown it in a big way. You are completely incompetent and show your lack of ability to lead by example. I suspect we have a few months of stability with the interim police chief until you and the city manager pick your new puppet so you can further destroy and mismanage a department you have no business running. Yes gang violence is growing everyday, its sad that the people of SJ dont get to read about the MULTIPLE gang stabbings and shootings that occur weekly. If im talking out of my backside I challenge you to post the crime stats from SJPD Crime Analysis!! If you dont I will be more than glad. This city could have easily had 70 homicides last year! This council and mayor are destroying this city and people’s lives. ITS ALL ABOUT YOU THOUGH!

  9. PO,

    Forgot to mention,  great idea to ask ref’s at our kids games to pay a business tax.  Are you that crazy for a few lousy bucks.  This includes going after police officers working pay jobs.

    These are the same officers that works the Sharks, Earthquakes and other city events including downtown bars.

    Do you have any idea where this can lead without pay officers.  PGE is required to have officers on scene to do road work.

    I would love to see all pay job officers walk off the job for a month and see what happens.  Only most cannot afford it thanks to Chuck.

    • I read that article too.  I didn’t agree with his point about the “slippery slope” of exceptions.  When you start with a bad idea it’s not a “slippery slope” when there too many common sense exceptions.

      Too many common sense exceptions is an indication that a concept is flawed.

  10. Gangs use the computers, cell phones, etc???……I wonder if the Gangs know that you and your friends at city hall are destroying/eliminating a national model police department?  I hope not.  If they use social media, like you say, this means the gangs will have free reign in the great city of San Jose (willow glen/almaden/rose garden areas included) or known by gangs as “Shark City”…..not because of the hockey team….Good to see the Mayors task force prevented another kids murder Sunday night…You have my vote for Mayor

  11. Gotta love the Neighborhood Watch Sign photo…Nice bucolic rural backdrop barn, rolling hills in the distance, a windmill driven water pump rising above the trees, split wood post supporting barbed-wire… and notice that the “watchers” report suspicious persons and activies to the SHERIFF’S DEPT!

    On a more serious note, remember the public safety committee meeting where YOU were choking back tears while going on the record with a claim that your constituents no longer trust the police? Where COnstant waved a stack of “emails” from his contituents claiming they were sick and tired of the police putting out “false” crime stats and staffing levels and demanding the PD command staff order officers to stop telling the public to take their gripes and concerns to THEIR ELECTED COUNCIL MEMBERS?

    Maybe you have heard that newly seated councilmember Khamis recently attended a community meeting and tried to snow the public with some false information of his own – only to be set straight by a police lieutenant? 

    Well there are a couple of problems with the Neighborhood Watch model.  First, there are not enough police to respond to crimes that have occurred much less take the time needed to attend these “community” meetings or Neighborhood Watch/Crime Prevention meetings. You may have heard that a time or two you may believe that it is just so much “false information” from disgruntled city employees… Well Pierluigi it is true.

    Secondly, the police have lost faith in the community. Not the victims, not the concerned citizens who are truely concerned for their safety and that of their neighbors and community BUT, they are caught up in the noises that YOU, CONSTANT REED and KHAMIS have made! There have been officers at community meetings who have been publically reamed by command staff at these “meetings” for correcting the record with factual information. Officers believe that council members are soliciting complaints from meeting attendees based on the dressing downs officers are getting from command staff behind closed doors at the PD for things they said or “supposedly” said at meetings or on calls for service.  Most recently , COuncilmember Khamis attempted to make a formal complaint on the officer who corrected the record at the recent community meeting. and, not long ago there were a few articles in the SJMN claiming citizens who called 911 were getting “politicked” on the phone by dispatchers and by officers “if and when” they responded.

    It is way passed time for you, your colleagues and the local media take responsibility for the two-way lack of trust that has developed. Your campaign against the police has done a grave disservice to the public and the police not to mention that it is proving to be a failure as the public slowly awakens to the cold hard truth of the matter – YOU ALL LIED and we are paying th price (we = your consitutents and the police!)

  12. Pierluigi this is your fault.    The Mayor gang task force is a joke. How can you have a gang task force without the police on it?  WOULD their opinion not be invaluable.  YOU got rid of the Gang Prevention Program that was in the schools and YOU got rid of the Gang Intervention Program that received numerous awards for over 18 years… You need enforcement prevention and intervention.. and YOU have gotten rid of all these things…You are so naive… please quit…