Heated meeting fuels ideas for cutting down East Side crime

Frustrated community members ask for more police presence

SAN ANTONIO – East Side community members fed up with rampant crime on their streets are now working out solutions with police. Tuesday night, residents and San Antonio Police Chief William McManus dug into the problem and put real ideas on the table.

"Drug, prostitution, petty theft, thievery, beatings that stem and continue to escalate because there is no presence," a community member shouted through the room of dozens of neighbors, city leaders and police officers.

"Right across the street from us, there's a park. There was someone shot there," said Aurora Morales, who is fixing up her East Side retirement home right now.

Morales has also had her house broken into four times, costing her more than $4,000. Hers is one of many stories.

So with patience worn, people from four different East Side neighborhoods let it all out at a crime awareness meeting with McManus and District 2 City Councilman Alan Warrick. The atmosphere was intense yet respectful, spurring productivity.

"Frustration," McManus said. "I hear frustration. These problems are chronic. They've been around forever."

Community members want a stronger police presence in places like Dignowity Hill, Government Hill, the Alamodome and Denver Heights. Successful response to crime in those areas will eventually be expanded to the rest of District 2.

In response, McManus said he will be sending out more street crime units to these specific streets and areas mentioned in the meeting. He said this would happen immediately, meaning as early as Tuesday night. He explained that other responses will take more planning.

"These are issues that have to be addressed in a very, very strategic way for results, and along with that, the community has to be kept in the loop," McManus said.

Plans could include cleaning up abandoned lots, extra street lighting, or eventually citizen patrols like some areas on the South Side.

"It has to be tailored to what the neighborhood feels comfortable with. I don't think I'd recommend a Citizens on Patrol here right now. I think we need to take care of some areas first, settle things down and maybe we can talk about that later," McManus said.

The SAPD Gunshot Detection Technology system, which does just that, rolls out its East Side pilot program in April. Police said that will be a big help in response and arrests.

Other ideas that are not set in stone yet will be planned and prioritized in the next meeting, which is being set up soon. Community members are already forming a task force that will keep each neighborhood communicating and forward ideas and concerns onto police. 

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