Shootings Downtown at Hip Hop Club

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One Saturday night, at about 9pm, as I was pulling up to the De Anza Hotel with a cab load of out-of-towners, one of the men announced he was going to walk around and check out our city. I warned him to do so at his own risk. “Mr. Southern California” thought I was pulling his leg. Hope he still has it.

San Jose has three types of citizens that come into town for entertainment at night. The limo crowd in for the opera, plays and dinner fundraisers at the Fairmont Hotel. Next, the butterfly tattoo, wine and beer drinking set. And then the bad boys and gals with tattoos that will scare your socks off.

Recently at a local Hip Hop club shots were fired and people were wounded. It has been suggested a change at City Hall could fix problems of this nature. It doesn’t matter if we have one politician in office or another. San Jose is not Los Gatos, Saratoga or even Campbell.

So what to do? Tell a good portion of the citizens we have no room, in downtown San Jose, for them and their Hip Hop clubs and possibly their hot-misguided minds and concealed weapons? Tell them to stay on their side of the tracks? Can you say ACLU?

Posted while iTunes spit out “Low Rider” by War.

8 Comments so far

  1. Chester (unregistered) on October 31st, 2005 @ 5:28 pm

    I can’t quite figure out what you’re really saying in this post — particularly the last few sentences. There’s a lot of hoodrat idiocy in Downtown San Jose, but it is definitely not a dangerous environment. The idea that one is walking some gang-infested gauntlet is totally outmoded by the reality, which is that Downtown is very safe. Anecdotally, I’ve even seen more boorish catcalling at Santana Row than in Downtown.

    Of course, there haven’t been any shootings in Santana Row. But on that tip, it should be noted that San Jose’s per capita murder rate is less than half the national average.


  2. joann Landers (unregistered) on October 31st, 2005 @ 6:39 pm

    There is a serious late night problem with gangs around the downtown. A problem the SJPD works very hard to deal with. So much so there will be a meeting with the Downtown Business Association and the Police Department next week.

    I am a taxi driver with experience on the streets of San Jose. One of my customers is ex-SJPD and he confirms my evaluation of the nightlife. The Mercury News does not give this problem much press, so not everyone is aware.

    My 17 year old daughter has been out at Santana Row after 10pm, something I would never allow her to do downtown San Jose.

    Chester, I am happy to hear you have been safe.


  3. Chester (unregistered) on November 4th, 2005 @ 10:47 am

    Well, we all have our own anecdotal experiences. I’ve been hanging out in Downtown for almost a decade, and I know dozens of people who work and live in Downtown. To my knowledge, not a single one has ever been a victim of a violent crime. I have several friends and acquaintances who are SJPD and work the Downtown beat and I’ve never heard any of them describe SJ Downtown as being any more dangerous than any other urban downtown of comparable size. Quite the opposite.

    Which doesn’t prove that there isn’t a “gang problem” in Downtown, but then again, the presence of a gang problem is not proven by a meeting between the DBA and SJPD or where you personally allow your daughter to go after 10PM. But, then, I’m not really sure what you mean by “gang problem”.

    I’m not really sure if you’re saying that you feel a general sense of unease in Downtown, feel that there is the possibility of physical danger in Downtown, feel that the likelihood of danger is high, feel that it’s “extremely” dangerous or what. Your original post and your reply to my comment both insinuate that Downtown is dangerous to some degree, but to what degree left very vague.

    Furthermore, if Downtown is “dangerous,” what is it dangerous in relation to? Downtowns of the smaller surrounding suburbs (i.e. Mt. View, Sunnyvale)? Downtowns of comparably-sized cities? Other neighborhoods within San Jose? Every urban center has a crime problem to some extent, but evaluation of that extent generally makes the most sense when put into some sort of comparative context.

    I don’t have any problem with warning Downtown visitors about the dangers of visiting Downtown, but I think everyone is served better if the warning is clearly delineated and the ostensible threat level is backed up with some sort of concrete support. Maybe I’m demanding too much, but I personally think that is your responsibility if you’re going to bring up the issue at all.

    [I don't know how strident this comment seems, but I pretty much always enjoy your posts and my objection isn't a personal thing.]


  4. joann Landers (unregistered) on November 4th, 2005 @ 1:24 pm

    I draw your attention to this mornings Mercury News Nov.4 the top of Local News section B: Proposal To Close Nightspots Well-Received By Police chief.

    I ask why close them if there is not danger?

    By warning my out-of-town fare I was simply doing just that, warning him. San Jose by outward appearance does not look dangerous at all, and while it is not considered one of the more dangerous cities, there are still trouble spots. Not every incident is gang related but they do have a presence in town. The locals know when they step into a club what type of an atmosphere to expect.

    Chester, if you ever have the occasion to listen to a police scanner you might be surprised by what you hear. It might open your eyes. Much of what happens is never reported. Enough said.


  5. Chester (unregistered) on November 4th, 2005 @ 6:32 pm

    The article talks about giving the Police a more expeditious way of temporarily closing “problem nightclubs” (emphases mine). To say that it is worth examining enabling the City to close select nightclubs that create chronic problems is not the same as saying that all of Downtown or Downtown in general is dangerous.

    San Jose not only is “not considered one of the more dangerous cities,” it’s considered to be one of the safest cities. The City is, in fact, constantly trumpeting how it has been voted the safest city in the nation with a population over 500,000.

    And I’d assume that gangs have “a presence in town”…much like gangs have a presence in pretty much any city across the country. But if all you meant by “serious late night problem with gangs around the downtown” is that there is some sort of gang presence, then I think that phrasing in your previous comment was at least slightly hyperbolic. (Unless you have specific reason to believe that San Jose has a specifically bad gang problem, relative to other similarly-sized municipalities. If so, it would be helpful to make a concrete case for that assertion.)

    Listening to a police scanner might be a surprising experience and it might open my eyes to what sort of stuff goes on over a police scanner in San Jose. It will not, however, teach me whether or not Downtown San Jose is more dangerous than any other downtown area in any other city of comparable size.

    I don’t want to make this a rhetorical pissing match. In my first comment, I was just expressing my confusion as to what you were specifically and precisely trying to say. It seems that your position is now that “there are still trouble spots” in San Jose. Not sure precisely what that is supposed to mean, but it does sound much less foreboding than your original post and first comment.

    And I’m still not sure if you think Downtown San Jose is dangerous in relation to another downtown in a comparably-sized city or if you think it’s more dangerous than other parts of San Jose. If all you mean is the latter, then I wouldn’t disagree with you (excepting the Eastside and certain other notorious areas).

    But if you meant the latter, then you were stating something along the lines of “It’s harder to find parking in Downtown San Jose than in South San Jose.” That is to say: obvious to the point of not worth saying. And if you were stating the former — that Downtown San Jose is more dangerous than downtowns in similar cities — then I think you have a responsibility to provide concrete support for that sort of assertion.

    I’m probably coming across as really anal and nitpicky here, but I like Downtown San Jose and care about what goes on there. I’m down there all the time (was in the Hotel De Anza when the Ambassador Club shooting occurred…my car was in what ended up being the cordoned crime scene), and have a lot of friends who live and work there, including SJPD on the Downtown beat. Downtown has its problems, but I think its bad rep is outdated and has been overexaggerated. I don’t think it’s any more dangerous than comparable areas in, say, San Francisco or Oakland. Or downtowns in cities of similar size throughout the nation.


  6. Chester (unregistered) on November 4th, 2005 @ 6:56 pm

    BTW, the story Joann refers to is here:
    http://www.mercurynews.com/mld/mercurynews/news/local/13079173.htm

    And there’s another related story here:
    http://www.mercurynews.com/mld/mercurynews/news/13069151.htm

    (Registration [free] might be required to access those stories.)

    This second story more directly and comprehensively discusses the general safety level of Downtown. It draws heavily from former Mayor McEnery’s feeling that the nightclubs of Downtown, overall, “don’t seem to be well-run” and “attract troublemakers and violence from all over the region.” It also cites that, along with the Ambassador Club shooting, there were two homicides in the Downtown nightclub district — one in 2003 and another in 2004.

    But it also says that Scott Knies, executive director of the San Jose Downtown Association, “said it’s ‘hogwash’ to describe the nightclub district as unsafe after dark.” It also says Police Chief Rob Davis “declined to characterize the downtown clubs as a problem overall, though he said individual clubs have created problems.” It also goes on to quote Sgt. Sergio Carabarin as saying “‘I don’t think it’s out of control,’ he said. `There’s too many cops out there for it to be dangerous.’ (Sgt. Carabarin “runs the nightclub detail.”) The article also quotes San Jose NAACP Chapter President Rick Callendar suggesting that a lot of the public perception of Downtown carries racial overtones: “Whenever you have a gathering of large number of African-Americans or a large number of Latinos, the reality is people get nervous. We continue to live under old stereotypes that people need to get past.”

    My overall impression from the article is that San Jose pays a lot of attention to public safety in Downtown. But I personally see this not as a symptom of a dangerous Downtown, but as the reason why Downtown is, in general, so safe.

    I would also like to point out that Santana Row offers all sorts of specific dangers that are specific only to locales such as Los Gatos, Palo Alto…and Epcot Center. There should be signs posted in the parking garages to warn prospective “Row”-goers of the gratuitous pre-fab cheese they’re about to encounter.


  7. Johnny Nayarti (unregistered) on November 11th, 2005 @ 9:22 am

    Nice work Chester. Its good to know that there are intelligent people blogging out there who can provide relevant critical analysis to the comments of scared reactionaries such as Joann.

    I have had a lot of family in San Jose since the 1970s. While San Jose’s downtown, like many downtowns, is not completely safe, it is much safer than the late 70s and 80s. That era marked a much more prevalent level of gang fighting.

    The media always trumps up crime–especially when young brown and black men are purportedly to blame.

    If Joann is so concerned, go to Stockton, Fresno, or any city in Southern California and then you will see REAL gang problems. The bay area is largely “chill” in terms of gang violence. That is not to say there is no violence, but merely it is nill compared to the regions I just mentioned.

    As for San Jose’s downtown, I have seen it change dramatically since the 70′–some for the good, some for the worse (i.e. the mindless destruction of an incredible collection of historic architecture, the desecration of San Jose state campus, and the pushing out of minority owned businesses).

    Johhny


  8. joann Landers (unregistered) on November 11th, 2005 @ 10:30 am

    Well dang, Johnny I didn’t say San Jose was a black hole my taxi customer was going to fall into. Just a warning that some clubs were having problems and he should be aware.

    I never said we were on the scale of Stockton etc. As a woman would I drive a taxi in a city that was overrun with out of control gangs and trouble makers?

    We all need to take care San Jose will continue to be a place we are proud of.



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