SAN JOSE (CBS SF) – The first of four town hall meetings on gang violence was being held in San Jose Monday night.

The forums, which will take place over the next several weeks, will give residents the chance to air their concerns about the violence and advise the city about how to stem gang activity in their neighborhoods, according to Mario Maciel, spokesman for the Mayor’s Gang Prevention Task Force.

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At similar forums in the past, community members have pointed out new trends such as more females doing work for gangs, Maciel said. Attendees also pushed for more of a focus on elementary school-age children and not just teenagers and young adults, he said.

San Jose plans to spend $4.6 million over the next two years on anti-gang efforts, such as the city’s Bringing Everyone’s Strength Together, or BEST, program, which awards grants to dozens of community groups to assist disconnected youths, according to Maciel.

Maciel said that thanks in part to added funding for anti-gang programs, San Jose has seen only eight gang-related homicides so far this year, compared to 18 in 2012 and 18 in 2011 when funding levels fell due to city budget cuts.

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The programs range from tattoo removal to efforts aimed at curbing substance abuse among children in middle and high schools, Maciel said.

The input received at the town hall meetings will help the mayor’s task force develop its 2014-2016 Strategic Work Plan, a series of guiding principles for suppressing gangs and assisting young people in San Jose, Maciel said.

Tonight’s forum will take place from 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. at Overfelt High School at 1835 Cunningham Ave. in East San Jose.

A second forum will be held Oct. 28 at the Bascom Community Center at 1000 S. Bascom Ave. The other two meetings are scheduled for Nov. 7 at the Southside Community Center at 5585 Cottle Road, and Nov. 14 at the Roosevelt Community Center at 901 E. Santa Clara St. All four forums start at 6 p.m.

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