Diane Blum

Freelance Writer

"Fowler Park Murder"
posted Sept 4, 2015 in the Evergreen Times
Fowler Creek Park Public Safety Forum

A well-attended community meeting was held on August 24th at Tom Matsumoto Elementary School. The topic? The recent gang related shooting death at Fowler Creek Park.
The meeting was sponsored by Vice Mayor Rose Herrera and Council District 8, and speakers included: Assistant Police Chief Eddie Garcia, Foothill Commander Captain Tony Mata, Crime Prevention Specialist Sandra Garcia, and the Director of Parks, Recreation and Neighborhood Services, Angel Rios, Jr.
Vice Mayor Herrera kicked off the meeting thanking the neighborhood for its input and suggestions on ways to improve on the safety of Fowler Park. She acknowledged the severity of the recent gang related shooting, but reiterated that the event was atypical of the Evergreen area. Her comments, as well as many others, focused on the overall safety aspects of the park, which has become a magnet for late night partying, drinking, pot use and noise.
Herrera indicated that a few of the suggestions made by Fowler Park neighbors would be implemented immediately, including:
• Rotating sprinklers would be rescheduled to turn on during the peak hours when loitering has been occurring to discourage people from lingering after park hours.

• Signage indicating park hours and park rules (such as no loitering), will be implemented.

• LED lighting is being prioritized for the park (currently, the city is converting all city lighting to LEDs based on a “hot spot” priority list; Fowler Park was not on this list, but Herrera’s staff is working to get it prioritized).

• Surveillance cameras are being discussed for a possible trial at Fowler Park. There was an earlier city trial in another park that showed cameras didn’t work well, having very poor resolution. In conjunction with the new lighting, the cameras might be workable at Fowler Park.

• The San Jose Police Department’s website (http://www.sjpd.org/_forms/CameraRegistrationFAQs.asp) has a homeowner surveillance camera registration portal where homeowners can register their video cameras. Should police have a need to access video cameras in a given homeowner’s vicinity, they’ll have the contact information in order to contact that homeowner to request to see recent footage.
Herrera also said that with the recent settlement relating to Measure B, it appeared the city was well on its way to resolving a major issue with police retention and recruitment. Adequate resourcing has been a tremendous issue, but now she is hopeful that if the settlement is approved that as many as 40-60 officers who left might consider returning.
Foothill Commander Captain Tony Mata gave an overview on the current crime levels within the Foothill division. The Foothill division spans from Milpitas to Southern Evergreen (Heartland/San Felipe); and from 101 to the foothills. It is a large territory covering 19.4 square miles and (based on 2010 census) over 58,890 people. At current staffing levels, an average of 4-5 officers is available on each shift.
There are 4 districts within the Foothill division, and Evergreen is considered district “P” (Paul).
A few statistics he shared (which he also indicated are available on the sjpd.org site):
• Crimes, citywide from 2014-2015 (same Jan-July timeframes) were up around 4.7% overall

• Break-ins for July 2015 only: 139 incidents in all of Foothill Division, 54 were in district “P”

• Violent crime for July 2015 only: 9 in all of Foothill Division, 2 were in district “P”
Mata discussed how resources are deployed. Priorities are customer service, gang violence and burglaries. Based on 911 and 311 calls resources can get moved around to cover “hot spots” or areas where there are concerns (speeding, suspected drug use). He asked the community not just to post their observations on Nextdoor, but to call them in to 311 (if non-active situation) so they are added to available crime data.
911 response time throughout San Jose is an average of 6 minutes, but they do not currently have enough resources to always get to 311 calls. They realize quality of life issues and traffic enforcement has been very low priority due to resources.
“Community Service Officers” are being deployed for low priority follow-up such as burglaries, thefts, stolen vehicles and non-injury accidents. They are only used in non-active situations. This program is working out well to help reduce administrative overhead on police officers, and the program is going to be expanded to include weekend coverage.
Angel Rios, the Director of Parks, Recreation and Neighborhood Services spoke about the two ways his organization is addressing the Fowler Park concerns. First, the shooting activated a ‘strike team’ within the Mayor’s Gang Prevention Task Force (MGPTF) which activates a variety of activities to ensure there are no gang retaliations or other gang activity in the park’s vicinity (Vice Mayor Herrera is also a part of this task force). Second, his organization is working to step up the priority for LED lighting in the park, add signage and look into the other points that Vice Mayor Herrera spoke about.
Rios also requested that community members sign up as part of the “Adopt-A-Park” program. In other neighborhoods, this has helped deter criminal and nuisance activity. He is hoping that some renewed funding will help with hiring park rangers to help with park enforcement in the future.
Assistant Police Chief Garcia reiterated that extra patrols are currently assigned to check the Fowler Park area during every shift.
Sandra Garcia, representing the SJ Police Department Crime Prevention Unit, spoke about the importance of people holding a local Neighborhood Watch meeting to get to know their neighbors. It is a major preventative measure against crime. To schedule a 2 hour meeting, you just need 10 neighbors to sign up to attend. Contact 408-277-4133 or go to http://www.sjpd.org/BFO/Community/Crimeprev/neighborhoodwatch.html for more information. Ms. Garcia also reviewed other city-wide online tools that can be helpful for keeping neighborhoods safe, such as the CityConnect mobile app (http://www.sjpd.org/ReportingCrime/CityConnect.html) , which allows people to report “311” type of issues (non-emergency) such as speeding spots that may need to be monitored, or things that are suspicious (but not active).
You can report graffiti using the ‘San Jose Clean” mobile app, (http://www.sjpd.org/_forms/graffitifaq.asp)
You can sign up for regular crime alert info, specific to your neighborhood, at www.crimereports.com. This is a great tool to see what is happening where you live as well as elsewhere in the city of San Jose.
Other suggestions were made by the audience relating to possible measures that could be taken to reduce nuisance activities in the park, and after the meeting many people headed towards tables to sign up for Neighborhood Watch meetings, as well as to sign up for the Adopt-A-Park program.
Vice Mayor Herrera ended the meeting encouraging people to attend her, “Coffee with the Captain” meeting. The next one is scheduled at the New Season’s Market, on October 8th, from 9:30-11:30am. Just drop by for an informal chat.
Let's get creative!