I’m not sure if San Jose is turning into the Old West or the next Oakland with seven people murdered—some in broad daylight—in the past week. The 31st homicide took place last night with a stabbing inside a Safeway on Story Road. Even when I lived in downtown San Jose during my college years in the 1990’s, where the most violet incident was a blotched robbery that ended with the getaway driver accidentally shot himself in the foot with a shotgun and crashed the car into a telephone pole, this violent trend has been unprecedented.
Most of the homicides took place on the East Side of San Jose, which my late mother called “the wrong side of the railroad tracks” (the North-South lines that runs parallel to Monterey Road) and journalist Geraldo Rivera once called “the ghetto side of town” on national TV. This is where the gang bangers, poor and immigrant families can be found. Ten of the homicides are suspected to be gang-related and the gang prevention task force has been mobilized.
My neighborhood in the San Jose City College area was peaceful with no homicides. (The 2012 homicide map shows an empty space below the 280 and between the 17 and the 87 in the lower left corner.) When I moved into my apartment complex seven years ago, I reported every incident of gang graffiti, suspicious teenagers hanging out in the carports and the theft of my car antenna. Gang bangers have never established a foothold here. A killing under the golden arches last year was literally around the corner and the closest murder to my home.
Why the sudden up tick in shootings? Gang members could be earning their street creds by killing each other (not necessarily a bad thing). The understaffing of police officers due to recent budget cuts have left patrols stretched thin throughout the city. Prisoners being moved from the state prisons to the county jails to relieve overcrowding under court order, which in turn forces the early release of criminals back into the community. Or it could be a statistical fluke where everything happens at once for no particular reason.
Anyway, whatever the reason, the 2011 record for 39 homicides will soon be broken if this violent trend continues unabated.