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El Observador

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 Every Friday night, you won’t find this group out on the town; instead you’ll find them donning bright yellow jackets with the words ‘volunteer’ etched on the back walking through the Alum Rock area. These walkers are a part of People Acting in Community Together (PACT) Night Walks campaign to walk in solidarity to increase public safety in the Alum Rock Community. Every Friday, the group meets to walk around the neighborhood for an hour and half.

“Right now, especially in our community, there are a lot of gang problems, drugs, and a lot of deaths that have happened,” said San Jose resident and Night Walks volunteer Jesus Moran.

Moran has lived in the community for more than nine years. He said in his neighborhood, residents do not go outside for fear of danger. “If you were to look at the streets right now, you’d see all the houses are closed,” said Moran about his neighborhood. “If you see people, it’s better to close the door because you don’t want to involve yourself in problems.”

Gangs are not a new issue for San Jose. San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed has continued to implement his Gang Prevention Task Force, bringing together a coalition of residents, city leaders, organizations, and law enforcement to prevent gang activity. Night Walks were one of the recommended initiatives from the task force.

The Alum Rock area in particular was indentified as a “hot spot”—an area in which the most crime and gang activity takes places, by the San Jose Police Department.  The Night Walks campaign is taking the hot spot data released by SJPD and using it as areas to focus on.

With four walks under their belt, Alum Rock residents are starting to notice, and become involved in the campaign.  “The neighbors were, first of all, just curious and watching us through the blinds. But now they are coming out, engaging us, and asking what we are doing,” said Reverend Peggy Bryan of Saint Phillips Episcopal Church.

Although the main focus of the walks is to promote safety, Bryan said the walks are also an opportunity to promote resources that residents may not know about.

”It’s not just plowing through the neighborhood full steam ahead, it’s engaging, talking, and developing relationships with the residents. We have information that we can give to them about any kind of resources that they might be needing,” said Bryan.

Bryan introduced residents to the smart phone application, San Jose Clean, which allows users to easily photograph and report gang graffiti and clean up litter. Walkers are also taking note of unsafe crossing areas or burnt out street lights to report them to the proper places.

The group will continue its Night Walks every Friday throughout the year. “We are going to continue to get more people together and continue walking to see if we can calm down and change the environment that’s there,“ said Moran.

For more information regarding the Night Walks Campaign visit: www.pactsj.org

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