San Antonio park police officer starts boxing gym to deter youth from crime

By Patty Santos - Reporter, Robert Samarron - Photojournalist

SAN ANTONIO - A San Antonio park police officer is hoping to change the upward trend in teens involved in criminal activity.   

Two years ago, Juan Cardona opened a boxing gym on the corner of Morales and Colorado streets on the West Side, where he grew up.

He said many of his students have dreams of making it big, while others just want a safe place to hang out.

“They have a, you know, an escape to come train, workout,” he said. “It helps kids that have, you know, bipolar, ADHD … Just hitting the bags helps them with their anger, so it's a good thing to do.”

Isaac Bermea, 16, says boxing helps him relax.

“I've been doing it for, like, five years. It helps me just get my stress out, it clears my mind,” he said.

Bermea has invited other friends to join him on the boxing ring, and he said it helps them forget about their troubles for a bit, too.

Cardona hopes more teens in troubled neighborhoods can see the benefits of boxing or getting involved in something that they enjoy over finding trouble in the streets.

“Give them discipline and a little bit of tough love,” he said.

San Antonio police Officer Doug Greene said it’s something that’s needed as more and more teens are finding themselves in the back of patrol cars. 

San Antonio Police Department statistics from January to June show the number of teens crossing paths with law enforcement officers in robbery cases:

January 2019

  • 13-16 years old - 8

  • 17 years old - 2

February 2019

  • 13-16 years old - 6

  • 17 years old - 2

March 2019

  • 13-16 years old - 17

  • 17 years old - 3

April 2019

  • 12-16 years old - 12

  • 17 years old - 1

May 2019

  • 13-16 years old - 12

  • 17 years old - 4

June 2019 (as of 06/24/19)

  • 13-16 years old – 8

  • 17 years old – 2

Year-to-date for 13-16 year olds – 63

Year-to-date for 17 year olds – 14

“They find themselves hanging out with the wrong crowd, getting in trouble, committing crimes and getting a criminal record,” Greene said.

He said police officers with side businesses have gotten creative in creating opportunities for teens in the summer, such as offering them jobs. He challenges the community and business owners to get in the ring and do more to help keep teens out of trouble, such as offering donations to programs that help teens or becoming a mentor. 

“They don't have a father in their life, and that's one of the key components that's missing that's really causing them to act out,” Greene said. “All they're looking for is a listening ear and someone that’s just going to care about them, and that little bit of love goes a long way and you can see many examples of that in our community.”

SAPD-sponsored events going on this week include a presentation at Oak Grove Elementary School from 8:30 to 10 a.m. Wednesday.

From 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Thursday, there will be an event at the Missions Sports Academy that will include a baseball game put on by the Police Athletics League.

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