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East Side Story: Much more than crime

San Antonio's East Side is in the middle of a well-publicized surge in violence. What can - and should - be done?

S.A. STEREOTYPE

How many stereotypes do you have about San Antonio?

I'm betting you have more than a few and that some of them have been fueled by stories you've seen on TV newscasts.

For example, over the years we've had stories about San Antonio making those Top Ten lists which we'd rather not make: Top Ten Fattest Cities, Top Ten Sweatiest Cities, Top Ten Most Out-of-Shape Cities...

You get the idea.

On the bright side, we haven't made those lists in a few years (that I recall, anyway), so cross your fingers that we'll stay off of them and that we're actually a little more in shape and a less sweaty than we used to be.

We can only hope for the same about some of the negative stereotypes you may hold about different parts of town, too.

Like the East Side.

CRIME TIME IN PRIME TIME

Right now, the East Side is making headlines because of a spike in crime.

We've seen a surge in violence in that part of town, partly because of what Police Chief William McManus has described as a battle involving gangs.

So when we've said the words "East Side" on the news recently, you've seen crime scenes littered with shell casings, flashing police lights, grieving family members and officers searching for suspects.

For a few weeks now, that's basically been the image that you would have seen on the news. The images feeding a stereotype, painting a bleak picture in your mind - or maybe re-enforcing it.

You think, 'Uh-oh, that's the East Side."

Well yes, it is part of it. Right now.

A part that we need to pay attention to and to fix.

And that's why it's on the news. For now.

THE REST OF THE PICTURE

BUT...

All of us need to keep in mind and do a better job of painting the whole picture.

The picture that's harder to see unless you live or work on the East Side.

I keep hearing from people that we rarely show other parts of the picture. For example, there are many beautiful, historic homes on the East Side, some of them recently renovated or under renovation.

And the churches. So many on the East Side, more per square mile than anywhere else in the city.

And new developments are going in. Entire complexes are rising up, some still just framed by two-by-fours, others a little more developed, walled in by shiny sheets of insulation, and most all of them set to open by the end of the year.

But that kind of fragile 'good news' can be overlooked, forgotten, or even erased if we focus only on crime.

Police Chief William McManus and Mayor Ivy Taylor use a kind of chicken-and-egg phrase to describe what can happen.

ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT IS KEY

"Crime deters economic development, but economic development deters crime," McManus said.

"What's happening in cities all over the country with areas like the East Side,... economic development is the key to change in those areas."

Mayor Taylor agrees, noting the recent spike in bad news has eclipsed the stories of new business developments on the East Side.

"Yeah, it is frustrating because we have had a nice little run on the East Side as far as there's been a lot of positive things that have been happening," Taylor said.

"And we certainly don't want this [recent crime] activity to stop the momentum that we have on those positive investments. But you know, I live on the East Side and it is a wonderful community with a rich history. And so the [bad] things that are happening aren't the complete story.

COMPLICATED

That complete story is... complicated. And anything too complicated is hard for TV news to convey, especially if crime is part of the picture.

But the East Side isn't just a 'Promise Zone' with hard and fast boundaries designated by a government entity for tax incentives.

If you spend any time there at all, even just driving through it, you'll realize San Antonio's East Side is a real place of promise.

A real home to thousands where homes and businesses are being rebuilt and redeveloped with pride.

That more people are looking to move here or start businesses here, all while that spike in crime does have many people on edge.

And while we put more police on the streets and push - as we always do - for more 'community involvement' we should try to get it into our heads that the East Side really does have promise.

That we need to paint that positive picture too, so that the kids growing up here see it that way.

That way, they can paint themselves into a real-life picture of hope and promise and brighter days ahead.

And not get caught up in that cliche 'East Side Crime' picture which is - for the moment - at the top of too many of our newscasts.

IDEAS?

Let us know what ideas you have that could help improve life on the East Side - and for all of San Antonio and South Texas - on our facebook page, https://www.facebook.com/News4SA

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