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News Archives

Viewpoints: State should renew commitment to programs to stem gang violence

NOVEMBER 08, 2011  |  THE SACRAMENTO BEE

As pastors of congregations in communities that have been hit hardest by budget cuts and shrinking pathways to opportunity, we have spent too many hours presiding over funerals and ministering to families who have lost children to violence. No words can truly alleviate the pain of loss when a young person is killed, or when a tragic event, such as the death of Monique Nelson at the barbershop last year, occurs.

In response, our congregations have committed to violence prevention work and are key stakeholders in the Sacramento Safe Community Partnership strategy. As The Bee editorial staff reported recently, this initiative in its pilot year has reduced homicides between targeted gangs as well as nonfatal injury shootings.

Part of the success of this effort can be attributed to statewide funding from the Office of Gang and Youth Violence Policy, which was created by the state in 2007, but eliminated in recent budget cuts. This office demonstrated a recognition by the state that violence in our communities cannot be addressed with enforcement and incarceration alone.

The Office of Gang and Youth Violence Policy has the mission of funding cities and counties to implement proven violence reduction strategies and to provide critical technical assistance and support to these communities. Through the office, 26 cities throughout California have started the challenging and hope-inspiring work of implementing violence reduction strategies and connecting local officials to national experts.

Many of these cities are implementing the Safe Community Partnership strategy, as Sacramento has. The work is paying off, with some of California's most violent neighborhoods experiencing a 60 percent drop in homicides.

With these outstanding results as a track record, we were deeply troubled when we learned that this office was on the governor's chopping block last May. Others shared our concern and together PICO California (People Improving Communities through Organizing), the California Cities Gang Prevention Network, Sen. Loni Hancock, D-Berkeley, and Assembly member Gilbert Cedillo, D-Los Angeles, and others highlighted the importance of the funding and functions of the Office of Gang and Youth Violence Policy and preserved them.

Despite this victory, we are concerned that the laser focus on reducing gang-related violence will become lost in the chaos of the state's "realignment" efforts and that our communities will once again be facing the plague of violence without any focused support or assistance. Our ground-breaking work here in Sacramento will be threatened without continued funding.

The most recent California Gang Reduction, Intervention and Prevention request for proposals makes more than 11 cities, including Sacramento, some with the highest homicide rates in the state, ineligible for funding. The guidelines for funding have also weakened the call for implementation of evidence-based practices and the necessary supports and oversight to ensure reductions in homicide, gun-related crime and recidivism rates.

Programs and initiatives like those supported through the Office of Gang and Youth Violence Policy increase the health and safety of our families and benefit our entire community.

We call on Gov. Jerry Brown, California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation Secretary Matthew Cate and the leadership of the Senate and Assembly to not only find ways to lower the current prison population, but also to act proactively to stop the cycle of violence in communities that continue to offer up new inmates. The state must act now to appoint a staff person to oversee this critical work so that our communities can turn our vision of opportunity for all young people into a reality.

Eddie Caraveo, left, is pastor of Victory Outreach South Sacramento. Les Simmons is pastor of South Sacramento Christian Center. Caraveo and Simmons are leaders with Sacramento Area Congregations Together and the Safe Community Partnership.

© Copyright The Sacramento Bee. All rights reserved.

 
 

Editorial: Ramping up the fight against gangs

OCTOBER 16, 2011  |  THE SACRAMENTO BEE

Police Chief Rick Braziel and Sheriff Scott Jones are both putting more manpower into going after Sacramento's gangs. That's a wise use of federal grants they just received.

To make the biggest impact, however, they need to join forces with each other, with other law enforcement agencies in the region and with community efforts.

One of the most promising is the Sacramento Safe Community Partnership, which launched last November under the leadership of Sacramento Area Congregations Together. It's a local version of "cease-fire" programs that have had success in other cities.

Clergy, law enforcement, neighborhood groups and social service providers have banded together to try to reduce gang-related violence in the Mack Road area in south Sacramento, where two rival gangs battle for turf. Four congregations go on night walks to spread the word and another 15 are involved. Three full-time outreach workers are on the streets to help keep the peace.

The initiative hinges on "call-ins" – group meetings where gang members hear from police, ministers, social workers and victims' relatives. They get an ultimatum: They can accept help to get out of the gang life. Or they can be closely watched by police and risk long prison terms if they commit another crime.

Those who want to leave gangs get intensive follow-up and access to job training, education and employment. About $1.2 million in state and federal grants, plus private foundation funding, has gone into the partnership. While that's quite a bit of money, the early results appear encouraging.

The number of shootings dropped in the Mack Road area from November 2010 to June 2011, compared to the same period a year earlier; gang-related shootings decreased even further. Of the 144 gang members who were invited or volunteered for the call-ins, nearly two-thirds attended. Of those who attended, 60 percent went to the initial services orientation; a majority of them did at least some job training, education or work. The re-arrest rate for those who took part in call-ins was lower than usual.

That initial success happened at the same time that budget cuts forced the Police Department to pull back on its anti-gang unit. Now that's being reversed.

Braziel is using his $8.1 million federal grant to rehire 25 uniformed officers laid off this summer due to the budget crunch. They will be assigned to five teams – three specifically targeting gangs. Two will patrol streets watching gang members, while the third will investigate gang crimes.

The partnership plans to continue focusing on the Mack Road corridor for the next six months. Then, depending on money and community support, it might expand. The next two areas would likely be Del Paso Heights and Oak Park.

Citywide, police count more than 4,700 gang members. While overall crime has been dropping, gang-related crimes have been increasing; more than one-fifth of homicides from 2006 through 2010 were gang-related.

The city certainly isn't alone with gang problems. Sheriff Jones calls gangs "the biggest crisis facing the region."

With his department's $11.3 million grant, Jones will put 25 new deputies on a new task force targeting youth and gang violence that will also include existing deputies. The unit is expected to focus on enforcement and intelligence gathering; working in schools to intervene with at-risk youths; and collaborating with community groups. The department will also look to partner with the city police and police departments in other cities in the county.

The sheriff says the new effort "will give us an unprecedented opportunity to really turn the tide on youth and gang violence." The tide needs to be turned, in part, because the department gutted its anti-gang programs during recent budget cuts.
That just goes to show that law enforcement can't do it alone. Lots of research clearly shows the best anti-gang strategy is intervention and prevention – target the most dangerous and influential gang members and also mobilize schools, neighborhood associations and faith groups.

To defeat gangs, it really does take a village.

© Copyright The Sacramento Bee. All rights reserved.

 

 

Audio Archives

PICO Launches Media and Grassroots Health Care Campaign - Radio Ad 1

MAY 21, 2009  |   DOWNLOAD AUDIO FILE

As Congress begins crafting health care reform legislation, PICO clergy joined with faith leaders from across the country today in launching a combined media and grassroots campaign to encourage Members of Congress to move reform forward and make quality health care truly affordable for every American family.

In a series of radio ads that will air beginning today on Christian and mainstream radio in swing districts and states of Representatives and Senators who may well determine the fate of health reform, local pastors remind listeners that "every person, created in the image of God, is of limitless value" and urge them to contact their Member of Congress.

The campaign also includes hundreds of grassroots events in congregations across the country, including public meetings with Members of Congress, and other local and national lobbying efforts - all focused on the goal of enacting reform that makes quality health care choices affordable for all families.

"Religious congregations across the country are organizing," said Rev. Dr. Cory Sparks, a PICO clergy member and pastor of Faith Community United Methodist Church in Lafayette, Louisiana. "We are making it clear to our Members of Congress that the majority of Americans want them to support health reform legislation that lowers costs for families and covers everyone."

"We want to remind our Members of Congress that health care is about real people, the people in my pews," said Rev. Rayfield Burns, a PICO clergy member from Metropolitan Missionary Baptist Church in Kansas City, Missouri, who is active with PICO affiliate Communities Creating Opportunity (CCO). "Nobody should have to rely on an emergency room for their health care or delay treatment because they lack insurance or have been denied coverage. This just isn't right."
 
Help move the debate forward by sending a Letter to your local newspaper on the need to make health care more affordable for families.

Today's activity marked an unprecedented degree of collaboration between faith-based community organizing networks and national religious groups, including PICO National Network, Faith in Public Life, Faithful America, Sojourners, and Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good.

For more information, visit www.coverallfamilies.org
 
 

PICO Launches Media and Grassroots Health Care Campaign - Radio Ad 2

MAY 21, 2009  |   DOWNLOAD AUDIO FILE

As Congress begins crafting health care reform legislation, PICO clergy joined with faith leaders from across the country today in launching a combined media and grassroots campaign to encourage Members of Congress to move reform forward and make quality health care truly affordable for every American family.

In a series of radio ads that will air beginning today on Christian and mainstream radio in swing districts and states of Representatives and Senators who may well determine the fate of health reform, local pastors remind listeners that "every person, created in the image of God, is of limitless value" and urge them to contact their Member of Congress.

The campaign also includes hundreds of grassroots events in congregations across the country, including public meetings with Members of Congress, and other local and national lobbying efforts - all focused on the goal of enacting reform that makes quality health care choices affordable for all families.

"Religious congregations across the country are organizing," said Rev. Dr. Cory Sparks, a PICO clergy member and pastor of Faith Community United Methodist Church in Lafayette, Louisiana. "We are making it clear to our Members of Congress that the majority of Americans want them to support health reform legislation that lowers costs for families and covers everyone."

"We want to remind our Members of Congress that health care is about real people, the people in my pews," said Rev. Rayfield Burns, a PICO clergy member from Metropolitan Missionary Baptist Church in Kansas City, Missouri, who is active with PICO affiliate Communities Creating Opportunity (CCO). "Nobody should have to rely on an emergency room for their health care or delay treatment because they lack insurance or have been denied coverage. This just isn't right."
 
Help move the debate forward by sending a Letter to your local newspaper on the need to make health care more affordable for families.

Today's activity marked an unprecedented degree of collaboration between faith-based community organizing networks and national religious groups, including PICO National Network, Faith in Public Life, Faithful America, Sojourners, and Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good.

For more information, visit www.coverallfamilies.org
 
 

PICO Launches Media and Grassroots Health Care Campaign - Radio Ad 3

MAY 21, 2009  |   DOWNLOAD AUDIO FILE

As Congress begins crafting health care reform legislation, PICO clergy joined with faith leaders from across the country today in launching a combined media and grassroots campaign to encourage Members of Congress to move reform forward and make quality health care truly affordable for every American family.

In a series of radio ads that will air beginning today on Christian and mainstream radio in swing districts and states of Representatives and Senators who may well determine the fate of health reform, local pastors remind listeners that "every person, created in the image of God, is of limitless value" and urge them to contact their Member of Congress.

The campaign also includes hundreds of grassroots events in congregations across the country, including public meetings with Members of Congress, and other local and national lobbying efforts - all focused on the goal of enacting reform that makes quality health care choices affordable for all families.

"Religious congregations across the country are organizing," said Rev. Dr. Cory Sparks, a PICO clergy member and pastor of Faith Community United Methodist Church in Lafayette, Louisiana. "We are making it clear to our Members of Congress that the majority of Americans want them to support health reform legislation that lowers costs for families and covers everyone."

"We want to remind our Members of Congress that health care is about real people, the people in my pews," said Rev. Rayfield Burns, a PICO clergy member from Metropolitan Missionary Baptist Church in Kansas City, Missouri, who is active with PICO affiliate Communities Creating Opportunity (CCO). "Nobody should have to rely on an emergency room for their health care or delay treatment because they lack insurance or have been denied coverage. This just isn't right."
 
Help move the debate forward by sending a Letter to your local newspaper on the need to make health care more affordable for families

Today's activity marked an unprecedented degree of collaboration between faith-based community organizing networks and national religious groups, including PICO National Network, Faith in Public Life, Faithful America, Sojourners, and Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good.

For more information, visit www.coverallfamilies.org
 
 

ACT on KXJZ's Insight

MAY 24, 2009  |   DOWNLOAD AUDIO FILE

Organizers Austin Aslan, Shuntae Campbell, and Lisa Sydnor join host Jeffery Callison on Insight leading up to our 2008 Mayoral forum for a great conversation around what youth face on Sacramento streets.

 
 

Mayor Fargo and Candidate Johnson Respond to ACT on KXJZ's Insight

MAY 20, 2009  |   DOWNLOAD AUDIO FILE

 

 

Video Archives

Sacramento ACT 2009

DECEMBER 14, 2009

Here's a montage of Sacramento ACT in 2009.

 
 

Sacramento ACT 2009

AUGUST 12, 2009

ACT's ACTION on Health Care Reform

On Tuesday, August 11, 2009, over 100 ACT leaders filled the federal courthouse steps to ratchet up a nationwide faith-based campaign urging Congress to pass comprehensive health reform legislation. Darrell Steinberg, President pro Tem of the California Legislature, speaks glowingly of ACT's leadership on this issue, and more...





 
 

ACT Mayoral Candidate's Forum Slideshow

MAY 11, 2009

On Monday, May 19, 2008, over 1,100 ACT leaders filled Luther Burbank auditorium to standing room only for the mayoral election's only forum dedicated entirely to youth issues. Take a moment to check out the inspiring slideshow of the event.

Thank you for the role you played in one of Sacramento's largest local election events ever. We have sent a clear message to City Hall that they are to invest more in our youth. The clock is ticking and they feel the pressure. It was not only the mayoral candidates who were impressed by the forum. City Council Members and County Supervisors and School Board
members and other city staff were there. Your dedication to our youth has left an indelible impression on all of their minds. This is, of course, only another step in the journey. We look forward to pushing on with the STAND TOGETHER Campaign for Youth Success, and we look forward to your continued leadership. We also look forward to strengthening our relationship with the many new ACT faces and voices who shined on May 19.

 


ACT Mayoral Candidate's Forum on Youth Issues - Slide Show

 
 

What do Sacramento Youth want in the next Mayor?

MAY 12, 2008

ACT is heavily invested in creating a more youth friendly city. In this video, which was presented to Sacramento's mayoral candidates at ACT's May 2008 forum, youth describe in their own words the issues around which they are organizing.

 
 

The PICO Model of Community Organizing

APRIL 16, 2008

Listen to clergy and community leaders talk about the PICO organizing model and what it means to be a part of a faith-based movement for justice.