Unified East Side brainstorms after violent Thanksgiving holiday weekend across SA

Conversations about change strengthening in neighborhoods, town halls

SAN ANTONIO – The numbers tell the story -- 12 shootings in five days.

The violence has enraged the communities it has impacted as well as law enforcement agencies.

People who live on the East Side are challenging themselves to come up with new ideas and strengthen current ones. Three of the latest shootings were in their neighborhoods.

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Out in the community and inside Monday night's town hall meeting, there was one main theme: a call for unity. 

God's House pastor Darrell Clayton grew up contributing to the East Side's crime problem.

"Selling drugs, huslin', gangbanging -- the same thing I see now," he said.

While in prison he found God and decided to turn his mistakes into positivity.

"I try to sit down with the drug dealers and hustlers and regular people in the neighborhood and see how they feel about somebody innocent getting shot and it could be their grandmother or their sister or brother," Clayton said.

It's a controversial tactic, but he believes it's just as necessary as helping children with no support at home.

"After-school programs, recreation -- the colleges need to come over like they're doing now with me," he said.

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He has also challenged people to take ownership of their own neighborhoods. He's helping community members to "adopt a block," designating specific people to each area, who will call police if they see crime. Other community members who are afraid to speak out can funnel information to the designated person. 

"The only way we're going to have change over here is if we get out and sacrifice our time," Clayton said.

His kind of passion was displayed at District Attorney Nico LaHood's town hall meeting Monday night. It was one of 15 scheduled around the city, meant to talk specifically about public safety. The timing is convenient, after the recent shootings.

"I'm concerned about our children. I live across the street from a school," said one community member. She spurred a conversation about changes that need to be seen in schools and the need for parental involvement. 

Another woman asked about reporting crime or information about crimes. She explained most people don't want to make reports for fear of being targeted when the police show up at their house to get information. Bexar County Sheriff Javier Salazar said people don't have to use their names and if they don't want officers coming to their house, they won't, as long as people specifically request that while making a report. He and San Antonio Police Chief William McManus emphasized the dire need for community information. 

Many people at the town hall meeting live on streets where some of the recent shootings happened. Clayton lives on the same street where a man was shot in his home Saturday.

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He agrees with police that the thousands of arrests made by the Violent Crimes Task Force this year are not enough to stop the problem.

"We try to help the police with not just coming over here arresting people, but learning how to communicate with the people, finding out what's the needs," Clayton said.

Since he himself is an example of how a person can change, Clayton knows turning indifference into action can transform the community he loves. 

LaHood is holding public safety town hall meetings every week until February. The 2018 meeting locations have not been announced but the locations for the rest of 2017 are listed below:

Monday, Dec. 4
Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 9186
650 E. White, San Antonio, 78214

Monday, Dec. 11
San Antonio Community College 
1300 San Pedro Ave., San Antonio, 78212

Monday, Dec. 18
Palo Alto Community College 
1400 W. Villarreal Blvd., San Antonio, 78224

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