Standing beside Attorney General Jerry Brown and a dozen other law enforcement and community leaders, East Palo Alto Police Chief Ron Davis declared the city's intense eight-month crime suppression effort a success Tuesday.
"The strongest piece was community involvement," Davis said, attributing the success to city leadership, collaboration with other law enforcement agencies and the community's contribution.
"In this case, it's been a real success," Brown said.
The multi-faceted Project Safe Neighborhood was launched in the wake of a three-month crime wave of six homicides and 67 shootings -- not including 16-year-old Maikeli Iongi, killed in a shootout with officers -- that rocked the city from November 2006 to January 2007.
By marshalling federal and state money and staff, aggressively reaching out to the community, boosting the presence of law enforcement and switching to a neighborhood-based beat organization, the Police Department and other leaders curbed the violence, Davis said.
From February to September, there was one homicide and 51 shootings, according to department statistics.
"We were able to demonstrate through our efforts that community policing really works," Davis said. "It is not soft on crime."
The overall cost of the effort topped $200,000, supplemented by a $75,000 federal grant through the Project Safe Neighborhood program, which aims to reduce gun violence.
Davis attributed the crime wave to numerous factors, including conflicts within the city's Pacific Islander community.
The community asked for a creative, effective response without turning the city into a police state, Davis said.
The city provided money for overtime and support for the Live-In Peace March and Rally in January and the Goin' Smart Youth Summit in March, both organized by community groups.
The department received assistance from the California Department of Justice, U.S. Department of Justice, California Highway Patrol, Federal Bureau of Investigation, San Mateo County Sheriff's Department, the county's anti-gang task force and several other entities.
But the most significant efforts came from the community, Davis emphasized.
Doug Fort, executive director of For Youth By Youth, said "indigenous" East Palo Altans were responsible for the peace.
"The hood gotta take care of the hood," he said.
Fort said he and other experienced adults held conferences with the "little homeys out there acting the fool."
"I refuse for you to die," Fort recalled telling them.
At the end of the talks, which sometimes resulted in truces between feuding groups, they would hug, he said.
"It was just pretty much God working," he said.
Sending the entire U.S. Army to East Palo Alto wouldn't end the violence if mothers continued allowing their gangster sons to live at home, Fort said.
The ultimate solution is for community members to work together to heal their wounds, he said.
"We're hurting," Fort said, adding that he's been shot, incarcerated and suffered from a broken family.
Adults need to take the time to listen and care about the community's youth, Police chaplain Paul Baines said, adding that he too has been in jail.
Davis said he concluded the Project Safe Neighborhood effort because he had had time to see that violence really had dropped and it was the end of a fiscal quarter.
No one was going to let up and allow the crime rate to creep back up, he said.
"We've got to keep working," Brown said. A staff member from his office will continue working in East Palo Alto, Davis said.
San Mateo Police Chief Susan Manheimer said she was particularly happy to be called to participate in a "good news" press conference in East Palo Alto.
"I'm so proud of my community," said Faye McNair-Knox, executive director of the nonprofit One East Palo Alto.
"I'm confident we are going to become the place that people look at and say, how did they do that?"