The emergency community meeting called by San Jose Vice Mayor Madison Nguyen was in response to two deadly gang-related shootings in the area within a week.
“This meeting is not meant to cause fear,” Nguyen told the packed room. “This is a call to action.”
Hector De La Rosa Jr., 20, was killed Monday in a drive-by shooting, and Hugo Gutierrez, 18, died Friday after a shooting in front of a Story Road restaurant. Police say the shootings were not connected. Gutierrez was the seventh homicide of the year, of which five are believed to be gang related.
Nguyen said police patrols had been increased in the neighborhood, and many of the school, church and community organizations represented at the meetings were offering help to the troubled neighborhood.But that was not enough to reassure Nancy Alvarado, a parent of three young children who won’t allow her children to play outside
“I want them to be safe,” she said.
Others worried about children just getting to and from school safely.
“I get so scared,” said Kimsea Sim, whose daughter is a senior at Yerba Buena High School who and stays after school for activities.
Diane Urban, San Jose’s acting assistant chief, told residents that officers needed help from the public, especially in light of a shrinking police force caused by budget cuts.
“Our success depends on your involvement and your willingness to partner with us,” she said. “If you see something that is suspicious, get a license plate number. Anytime you see a fight, call 911 and reach out to us. It’s the most important thing you can do.”
But the fear of retaliation or being deported generates a reluctance to report neighborhood crimes, said neighborhood activist Steve Navarro.
“Reporting people’s status is not what the San Jose Police Department does,” Urban said, adding, “We’ll do everything in our power to protect you.”Said Valerie Maese, whose son was killed in San Jose by a gang in 1995, “You want a safe place to live? Open your doors and speak out.“
She said she heard about the meeting and came to help other parents. “We all need to look out for each other.”
In the back of the room quietly listening to the conversation sat Hector De La Rosa and his wife, Imelda, whose son had just died a week ago in a gang shooting. He wonders why the city doesn’t put surveillance cameras in dangerous areas, and even offered to pay for them.
“I don’t want somebody else to die,” he said.