Meetings to ally South City police, community amid rise in gang violence 

In an effort to combat a rise in gang violence, South San Francisco has hired a local nonprofit to organize a series of community meetings and train police officers on building trust with neighbors.

The City Council signed a $35,000 contract Wednesday with the Peninsula Conflict Resolution Center, which hopes to replicate successful strategies it has used since 2004 to clean up a violence-plagued neighborhood in San Mateo.

South City officials hope the group will aid the city’s efforts to improve safety in the wake of an unsolved triple homicide on Dec. 22, which police believe was gang-related, and past violence in the Old Town neighborhood.

“It’s not only providing technical assistance and support to law enforcement,” center associate director Michelle Vilchez said, “but it’s also the residents themselves understanding the role they can have and the power behind their work and how they can create change.”

The center plans to offer training for a new four-officer community policing unit on working with community members who may be reluctant to help law enforcement.

“We simply don’t have those relationships in place right now,” Mayor Kevin Mullin said last month. “We’re just not getting the information we need.”

During the 14-month contract, the center will help the city’s Community Coalition for Safe Neighborhoods to set up community meetings, giving residents a chance to discuss concerns and plan neighborhood cleanups and other events. The center will also help identify “emerging neighborhood leaders” to start up neighborhood watch groups.

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Shaun Bishop

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