REDWOOD CITY — Clustered together in small groups, neighbors spent close to two hours Friday night brainstorming solutions aimed at working with police and getting gang violence off their streets.

"Without your eyes and your ears, we can't be successful," Redwood City Police Capt. Chris Cesena told the crowd of more than 40 people at the Fair Oaks Community Center. "It's very important for parents to realize what's going on out there."

For the past several months, law enforcement agencies have increased their patrols to seven days a week in San Mateo County because of the rise in gun violence, gang-related incidents and homicides.

Gang activity has cooled down because of police presence, Cesena said, and the group's suggestions revolved around better police outreach to the community. Ideas included making it easier for people to leave anonymous tips, speeding up police response times when someone reports possible gang activity and emphasizing the importance of family responsibility.

Redwood City resident Cherlene Wright saidthere are some parents who aren't parenting their kids. Her twin boys, Gavin and Devin who attend Kennedy Middle School, were concerned about the fights at school. Gavin Wright complained that even though one of the school's colors are red, students are not allowed to wear the color.

Two tables away from them, five boys who attend Kennedy and Woodside High School gathered together and suggested that gang members should have their own school so they can study all day.


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Give them mentors, provide more sports activities and bring in more police at the schools, they said.

They however, did not understand why some kids claim colors or how they start, said Alejandro Vilchez of the Peninsula Conflict Resolution Center.

He started an impromptu youth discussion at the meeting so the five boys could talk about their concerns.

"The problem is we don't go to them enough, yet they're the ones being killed," Vilchez said. "They're in the trenches and they never get to voice (their concerns). When they do voice it, it comes out through an expression of anger. A lot of gang members started out like this — in fear."

Staff writer Christine Morente can be reached at (650) 348-4333 or at cmorente@sanmateocountytimes.com.