SAN JOSE -- The San Jose Police Department's summer crackdown on gang activity, an effort launched in June after a string of killings, resulted in a 19 percent drop in gang-related violent crime, according to statistics released Monday.
So far this year, San Jose has experienced six fewer gang-related homicides than the same time period in 2012, a 42.8 percent drop, according to police. In the same time period, the city has also experienced a 19 percent drop in violent gang crime, which includes homicide, aggravated assault, robbery and simple assault.
"We had a great plan and our officers worked hard to reduce the violence," Acting Chief Larry Esquivel said in a statement. "We have had some success in reducing gang related violence thus far. Now it's time to look forward to the school year and continue our efforts for the long term."
This month, police began making the transition from summer enforcement to a year-round effort with the launch of the Gang Suppression Unit, a team of officers dedicated solely to gang issues. It's a resurrection in part of the Violent Crimes Enforcement Team, a successful gang squad disbanded in 2010 for budgetary reasons.
The formation of the new unit creatively reallocates limited police resources: Two sergeants and 12 officers were shifted over mostly from Metro, a team that traditionally handles vice crimes like prostitution and executes high-risk arrests and search warrants.
The new, long-term approach includes continued, high-visibility patrols in known gang hot areas and collaboration with the Mayor's Gang Prevention Task Force staff, which also targets prevention and intervention.
There has been one gang homicide since police began saturating the streets on June 20 following a string of killings, including the murder of a 16-year-old boy in broad daylight. The largely overtime-funded plan, which was highlighted by 20 two-man gang cars and more than 40 extra officers deployed during the week, bolstered ongoing efforts by the Gang Investigations Unit and the elite Metro and MERGE (the city's SWAT unit) teams. There have been seven homicides in San Jose since the gang crackdown, one of which was gang-related.
The department successfully employed a similar strategy two years ago, when the homicide count reached 26 in the first half of the year, 14 of them attributed to gangs. Then-police Chief Chris Moore ordered METRO -- tasked with gangs, drug dealing and other vice crimes -- to focus on "all gangs, all the time, " blanketing gang hot spots with patrols, conducting impromptu probation searches on gang members and more closely tracking gang patterns.
That year ended with 41 homicides, but there were no gang-related homicides during the summer.
Contact Mark Gomez at 408-920-5869. Follow him on Twitter @MarkMgomez.