Community members speak out at EPA forum

Violence, Measure C topics of Thursday forum

Community members voiced their frustration in an open community forum held Thursday by East Palo Alto Mayor Carlos Romero and Police Chief Ron Davis.

Romero and Davis explained the timeline of recent events and programs the city has instituted and will institute to combat violence in East Palo Alto. The meeting was held in the wake of the recent homicides in city, where five people have been murdered since the beginning of June. Only four people in East Palo Alto were murdered in 2010.

"The only way we can deal with violence in our community is to be engaged," Romero said. "We are not going to solve it with just police."

Residents responded through the recent period of violence by using the anonymous tip line created by East Palo Alto police, Davis said. Arrests and people of interest have been identified in all five cases through these tips. Two of the people of interest are Fidel Silva Jr., 24, and Jaime Cardenas, 20, who are wanted for questioning about the murders of Hugo Chavez, Kevin Guzman, Catherine Fisher and an additional murder warrant in Grand Junction, Colo.

Silva and Cardenas, who are believed to be associated with a gang, are said to be moving to and from East Palo Alto and that the violence may not be over. To prevent further gang actions, "Operation Ceasefire" will focus on those gang members on probation and parole to go along with "call-ins," which are designed to give gang members alternatives to gang life. While some citizens are in support of Romero and Davis, others do not believe the community is being empowered to help.

A sensitive issue was Measure C, which is supposed to enhance community crime prevention and public safety law enforcement programs and was passed by voters in 2006. Measure C helped to strengthen the East Palo Alto Police Department, which had one of the lowest staffing ratios in the country, according to a University of California at Berkeley study.

"They've been stealing a lot of it," East Palo Alto resident Joseph Holland alleged.

Davis welcomed solutions but became defensive when crowd members questioned his commitment to the community.

"I'm out there at two in the morning saving lives," Davis said. "It's easy to stand up there and ambush. What solutions do we have as a community?"

Other programs include the Police Activity League, which includes a graffiti arts project, golf and soccer activities, and the Summer Violence-Reduction Plan to go along with programming provided by community-based organizations. In all, $200,000 was released to fund the programs in 2011.

But some in the community have not seen some of these programs coming to fruition. According to Holland, there has been "too much hoodwinking" by the city's officials. Community members were animated about the use of funding for community-based programming. Faye McNair-Knox, who runs an East Palo Alto summer youth program that has employed more than 700 youth in its time, has found it difficult to get funding for her program.

"Kids have told me if you don't want us to help (with crime prevention), get us a job," McNair-Knox said.

Holland said he does not believe city board members have the city's best interests in mind.

"This city is not interested in getting fixed," Holland said of the city officials. "The citizens are not happy."

— Bay City News Service

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Like this comment
Posted by local gurl
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Aug 5, 2011 at 10:27 am

The violence in EPA will not stop unless the residents of EPA take a stand. The police can only respond to, not prevent, these situations.

Like this comment
Posted by Frederico
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Aug 5, 2011 at 11:01 am

It's the mentality of people like Ms. Holland that prevents change. When will they get it? It's the citizens of EPA that cause these problems. They are the ones in gangs and committing the violent crimes, not the city board members. Stop looking toward the city or the police department to solve these problems. They simply respond to the problems we create within the community. Whatever mismanagement takes place in the city government pales in comparison to the problems our citizens create themselves. Change will occur when people reject substance abuse, gangs, and a criminal lifestyle. Ms. Holland needs to focus her criticism and energy toward the people that need to hear it, like the drug dealers, gang members, and thugs.

Like this comment
Posted by Happy EPA Citizen
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Aug 5, 2011 at 11:06 am

Chief Davis is the best police chief we've ever had (which is why he narrowly missed being made Chief in Seattle and New Orleans, among others). Our crime rates have plummeted, and this recent spate of troublesome murders is unusual since he has arrived. Our city council is also the best it has been, filled with very caring and dedicated community members. Both the PD and the City Council will be better empowered by our support rather than our criticism. Some of the folks who pander to the press by opening their mouths to spew venom at them are the same ones who shut their mouths when it's time to step up as a witness to a crime. We should all hope that Chief Davis shakes off the haters and stays at his post. We need him there.

Like this comment
Posted by Enough!
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Aug 5, 2011 at 11:21 am

I saw exerpts of the meeting on the news last night. I saw the way the community blamed and castigated the officials of the City for the rising crime rate.

Gee, I wasn't aware that the Mayor and Police Chief of East Palo Alto have been the people who have been committing all of these crimes.

I thought it was the mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, neices, nephews, uncles and aunts, yanno, the FAMILY units, that have family members who go out and commit crimes with impunity. And then there's the 'no snitch' policy we all hear about so often. If you aren't going to tell, who is going to stop these thugs?

Why is it up to the government to take care of your families?

The people of EPA come off as very hypocritical. They scream they want the police OUT of their business, but at the same time, hold the police responsible for the crimes being comitted. They hold the 'community' (whatever that is) at large as having the responsibility to keep their family members out of trouble.

I can understand asking for help, but DEMANDING and ACCUSING from the people who aren't the criminals is never going to fix anything. Work on yourselves, and ask for help when it's needed. Try to follow thes basic tenets of morals and common sense: It is WRONG to steal, WRONG to KILL, WRONG cast blame without looking at yourselves, first. I was taught not to do those things, and have been desperately broke and challenged in my life, but once did I resort to taking that which did not belong to me, from another person's money, possessions, or life.

Like this comment
Posted by Hmmm
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Aug 5, 2011 at 11:33 am

Moronic thinking like that of Holland are classic EPA denial-perpetrators. They are at every community meeting and they're committed to always, always blaming those in positions of authority, rather than admitting where the majority of the problems are - with the criminals.

There was a time not that far back when our city officials were often pretty bad - people like Stan Hall, and there was that former city councilman who's a registered sex offender. We've had plenty of bad cops and uncaring police brass. But luckily, times have changed. Residents have gotten smarter and more sophisticated with their abilities to judge a person in authority and their votes have followed. The old-fashioned, outdated worldview of people like Holland is useless, self-pitying, finger-pointing & pathetic.

I'm tired of being one of the ones standing up, because I'm not a thug, or one who spends time w/criminals. How much info can someone like me offer the cops or the community w/regard to stopping crime? Not much, frankly. I stand up to support those who do, to show my support for those who make a difference & I stand up and contribute in areas where I have the skills to do so. I've done & continue to do more than my part. It's now time for others to stand up along w/all of us who've been doing this for many years, and work towards bettering this community.

This means that if the youth demand jobs, I demand better behavior from them, beyond their paycheck. After all, the difference between people like me & others who give so much of themselves & those causing the problems is that we're people of peace for whom it's not all about the money.

Like this comment
Posted by Enough!
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Aug 5, 2011 at 11:38 am

@Hmmmm, you are probably the rule, rather than the exception. Sad that a certain criminal element can overshadow all that's good in your community. It's scary to do the right thing in EPA. You have my sympathy.

Like this comment
Posted by asmallgal
a resident of Palo Alto Hills
on Aug 5, 2011 at 11:41 am

I think people are afraid of gangs,plus if they stand out to tell police,they might not get help from police if the gangs are after them.

Like this comment
Posted by Hmmm
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Aug 5, 2011 at 12:04 pm

Thanks, Enough! It gets old to do the right thing here in many ways & see people act like utter idiots. However, one of the measures I use, which keeps the burnout at bay, is that if the majority can continue living their normal lives, my contribution is quietly at work. I also don't have to like all of the people my work has helped, which I remembered recently. Do I want to hang out at National Night Out? No. A lot of my inconsiderate, obnoxious neighbors are tiresome, but they're not criminals. I've just come to a lot of realizations lately that aren't easy to put into words.

The bottom line is that EPA is actually having to deal with two insidious criminal elements: the violent idiots with guns and the greedy educated thugs in suits. The first attract too much attention that frankly, don't effect the majority of the city & the latter prefer to scuttle around w/out notice, like the roaches they are, & they have the terrifying ability to effect thousands.

Like this comment
Posted by belong
a resident of Palo Verde
on Aug 5, 2011 at 12:15 pm

I wonder which group they both belong to.

Like this comment
Posted by Luis
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Aug 5, 2011 at 9:18 pm

There is a division growing amongst the Hispanic and African American community leaders in East Palo Alto. Because of this division, you have idiots form the old ineffective regime (Mr.Holland,and Mrs,Mcnair) fighting over Measure C monies. Be upset at the drug dealers, killers, and thieves that run rampant within the city.Time to move......

Like this comment
Posted by Divide
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Aug 6, 2011 at 3:47 pm

Luis, Dr. McNair-Knox does a lot of work willingly with the Latinos in EPA. She not only has Latino community organizers in her employ, but her org has fostered Nuestra Casa in EPA. Can you mention more on your perspective about her involvements in the divide that you mention? I certainly have noticed this divide, just not under her purview.

Like this comment
Posted by Luis
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Aug 6, 2011 at 9:42 pm

Divide, I did not want to upset the "Doctor," but the old regime is creating a division.

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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