It took Xavier Castile a month to learn how to walk again.
But Castile, a father of two who was shot in what he believes was a case of mistaken identity, believes he is one of the more fortunate ones.
“My little cousin just got shot, and that affected a lot of people because he was young,” Castile said.
Castile’s cousin was one of the 200 incidents of aggravated assaults in his San Antonio, Tx., neighborhood. Castile said his cousin died in the shooting.
According to the San Antonio crime tracker map, there were more than 200 reports of aggravated assaults in Castile’s neighborhood last year.
Milo Colton, a criminology professor at St. Mary’s University, said the reasons for the violence are deep-rooted.
“It boils down to: If you want justice you’re going to have to get it yourself.” Colton said.
“We all grew up with the norm, ‘You don’t snitch.’ Traditionally, African Americans have had to struggle in the system, and on many occasions, don’t put a lot of faith in the criminal justice system.”
Based on decades of experience studying crime trends in San Antonio, Colton said he believes the violence could be quelled by creating more job training and educational opportunities, along with more proactive attitude on the part of local law enforcement to improve relationships with residents.
Colton said the issue, however, also lies within members of the community.
“There are those who resent others who are trying to succeed,” Colton said.
Castile remains determined to push through. After recovering, he got the opportunity to play arena football and decided to create his own job opportunities.
“As it is, they tried to cripple me, so it only made me power up. I started my own security business, Checkmate Security,” said Castile.
“We’ve been going on for about four or five years strong already.” Castile has this message for his community:
“The tough days and trying-to-get-stripes days, trying-to-prove-something days, are over with,” Castile said.
KSAT12 explored the roots of violence in several San Antonio neighborhoods as part of its Crime and Justice series.
District 5, on the city’s West Side, is home to hard-working families, some of whom have built their own businesses.
Unfortunately, the area also claims an unfavorable distinction as being one of the most murderous districts.
In 2018 alone, the San Antonio Police Department Cracker Tracker Map shows there were 16 reported murders in District 5, a 22 square-mile area, where the median annual income is about $25,000.
For District 5 resident, Coque Onetime, hearing about murders in his community comes as no surprise. He said he knows about six or seven people murdered in the area within the last five years.
“Friends, relatives, neighbors … You get immune to it, like, it’s an everyday thing,” Onetime said. “There are people that are panhandling and stuff, because they don’t got to eat.”
Poverty and lack of opportunity are the driving factors that contribute to violence, said Prof. Colton. “It puts stress on family relations. Odds are you’re in jobs that have no guarantee.”
In many cases, people don’t have jobs at all.
Matthew Idrogo, for instance, is homeless and believes he hasn’t been able to secure a job because of a lack of education. He said he uses drugs to feel better and sells drugs to get by.
“I sell Klimax (a kind of synthetic marijuana) on Zarzamora (Street). I was a big-time dope dealer,” he said.
“[We do it] for food, for clothes. We don’t do it to do it, to enjoy seeing people get hurt.”
According to Idrogo, it’s a life that was born out of necessity, one that catapulted him into the criminal justice system and into the cycle of indigence.
“From state prison, I went to county jail, went back to prison. I been (in and) out of prison almost my whole life,” he said.
Creating a better future for the underserved isn’t easy, but according to Colton, this can be done over time, starting with better transportation options and school systems.
“What we need is a unified school district, and that way we can make sure that the monies are distributed more evenly,” he said.
Local politicians agree.
“We can’t police (violence ) away because the crime is a symptom of larger issues,” said Keith Toney, who was running as a candidate for San Antonio city council.
Toney believes the key to reducing violent crime in San Antonio’s neighborhoods lies in creating educational and job opportunities for idle minds.
“If they get trained up and they’re working a trade and they’re redoing buildings, then they are working a shift,” Toney said.
“”They won’t have time to shift into crime, to shift into aggravated assault,”
Toney believes the key to reducing violent crime lies in creating educational and job opportunities for idle minds.
“If they get trained up and they’re working a trade and they’re redoing buildings, then they are working a shift so that they won’t have time to shift into crime, to shift into aggravated assault,” Toney said.
He wants to challenge big developers.
“I want training opportunities, and they can do that in the trades. Not everyone’s going to college, but one thing that they’ll need is workers for the various projects that they’re bringing in here,” Toney said.
Candidate Jada Andrews-Sullivan offered a different perspective.
She believes reducing violence begins with improving relationships among residents.
“Truly educate one another, get back to our community policing, which is, ‘I know my neighbor. My neighbor knows me,’” Andrews-Sullivan said.
She also wants to locally address what she said are deep-rooted, nationwide tensions between law enforcement and people of color.
“Sitting down with the chief and saying that it’s not so much that we need the forcefulness of the Police Department but we truly need the heart of the Police Department,” Andrews-Sullivan said.
“We truly need you to get out of those squad cars and walk up and down the neighborhoods and get to know who lives here,”
Deven Clarke, a staffer for KSAT12-ABC San Antonio, is a 2019 John Jay/Harry Frank Guggenheim Justice Reporting Fellow. This is a condensed version of two of the reports Deven is producing as part of a crime and justice series workshop project for his fellowship. The full stories are available here.