The San Jose Police Department today announced a new plan to deploy extra officers this summer to suppress gang violence that has claimed eight lives this year, including a teen boy on Thursday. The department’s Summer 2013 Violent Crime Reduction Plan will evolve in phases over the summer months, starting this month with 40 to 45 new officers per week, police spokesman Sgt. Jason Dwyer said.
The new series of officer deployments will mean paying overtime, shifting work hours and postponing vacations for a department still recovering from the loss of 300 personnel in the past few years, Dwyer said. “To be able to do something like this under our current staffing restraints is pretty incredible,” Dwyer said. “We’re able to reach down into our overtime pockets and pay these officers overtime, we’re able to maneuver some hours and some working days around. We’re basically doing whatever we can do,” he said. For the rest of June, 20 two-officer “gang suppression cars” supplemented by SWAT and other special unit officers will be dispatched into gang-saturated areas in San Jose, Dwyer said.
In July, the plan’s second phase increases the presence of uniformed police with 12 two-officer gang cars, 64 officers each week and on weekends, and with SWAT and special unit police changing from working only weekdays to weekends and evenings, Dwyer said. Training activities for the department’s Special Operations Division will be suspended so that those officers may be sent to the field in high-visibility patrols, he said. In August, San Jose police will create a Gang Suppression Unit with two teams of officers, each led by a sergeant and sent out during hours when gang activities are at a peak, seven days a week throughout the city, Dwyer said.
Another group of officers will be working this summer on confiscating firearms from people on a list of those prohibited from possessing guns due to mental illness or past criminal convictions, Dwyer said. Dwyer said that eight of the 25 homicides in San Jose so far this year were traced to gang activities. The most recent gang-related killing started at about 6 p.m. Wednesday, when Manuel Urzoua, 16, of San Jose was found lying with least one gunshot wound in the 1600 block of Virginia Avenue. Urzoua died at a hospital on Thursday, according to police.
The department, to prevent to gang violence despite limited resources, has “to be very resilient because we basically don’t have the extra 250 officers in years past that we can throw at a problem and not incur a bunch of overtime and not change their hours,” Dwyer said. Dwyer said that gang activity in San Jose is dominated by a long-term rivalry between the Norteno and Sureno street gangs.
“They are rooted very heavily in prison gangs, and so that is really where it starts, and it trickles out into the street and becomes a turf issue and it’s very sad because a lot of the foot soldiers that are carrying out a lot of the assaults are minors being recruited at a very young age,” he said. Law enforcement alone is not the only solution to suppress gang activity, which also must include civilian intervention by city, community and clergy organizations going into gang neighborhoods, Dwyer said.
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