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South San Francisco responds to recent violence

By RJ Refuerzo
Increasing violence and homicides have been a problem for South San Francisco citizens in recent years, but the grotesque 2010 statistics have the city taking a more active role in the struggle to curb violence. Public meetings have been called to consider the rise in homicides and other crimes in the past few months and to improve public relations between police officers and civilians.

San Mateo County recorded 20 homicides in 2010, not including vehicular manslaughter or other means deemed justified by peace officers. This number has steadily risen since 2009, in which 14 homicides occurred. From 2000 to 2006, the number escalated from 10 in 2000 to 33 in both 2004 and 2005 before dropping to 23 in 2006. It stayed below 20 until the triple homicide in December.

Campus Security Officer Laura Janero said that the gang problem had been anticipated to travel down the peninsula, according to law enforcement. “From being in the business for 22 years, I honestly believe that there’s really no one to blame; it’s just the way things are going,” Janero said. “The sudden surge of violence is a concern and we all want to pitch in as a community and give all the information we know to law enforcement and to anybody else who needs our help.”

Three Linden Avenue homicides on December 22 have brought about new concern, and in response the City Council proposed and later passed a $400,000 program to hire four additional officers to promote synchronization between the force and the neighborhood and add a second police officer as a school liaison. The Peninsula Conflict Resolution Center has been working in conjunction with the San Mateo County community to figure out the best way to meet the needs, according to the PCRC Associate Director Michelle Vilchez. The committee came into play by coordinating with South San Francisco High School after 15-year-old Jose Lopez Manuel was killed in a drive-by shooting earlier in May of 2010.

Janero hopes that the $400,000 grant will work, and aims to follow up in any way she can at El Camino. “Get all the right people to say they’re going to do what they need to do, and it should work,” Janero said. “Everybody in the community has to get in there and make it work. And we’ve got good students that I’ve seen in the years that help us in security turn those kids around too. We can do it; we just need as many people as possible to do it.”


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