Monday, December 9, 2013

Bringing about justice in troubled neighborhoods

The Press Enterprise has been providing continuous coverage of independent groups peacefully fighting to take back their communities from Inland Empire street gangs. The tactic that these groups are using is preventing vulnerable youth from joining the criminal culture in the first place. Gangs rely on new members to replace those either killed or incarcerated.

Last October following the murder of 6 year old Tina Ricks, groups in Moreno Valley worked on stepping up their efforts to connect with at-risk youth. More recently, a former Inland gang member who turned away from this culture after serving time in jail has been working very hard to provide a positive place for troubled teens. Terrace Stone founded Young Visionaries Youth Leadership Academy in 2001. There are centers throughout San Berandino County and Moreno Valley. In addition, numerous religious organizations provide mentors, job leads and help for incarcerated youth to prevent them from returning to the gangs upon release.

Research has shown over and over again that countless youth enter into gangs simply because they lack caring parents and have nowhere else to go. That continues to be evident in places like Moreno Valley, San Bernardino, Perris and downtown Lake Elsinore. These criminal cultures violently obstruct the quality of life in communities. The gangs sell illegal drugs which exacerbates destructive addictions. They rely on criminal tactics to get such drugs onto the streets in troubled neighborhoods. These groups destruct communities by marking their "territory" through graffiti and obstruct the transit system. We certainly don't want our buses, trains and transit fleets that we advocate for mired in such crime or vandalism. We want a productive labor workforce aboard a first-rate transit system with safe and robust communities.

Youth group organizations have long been broadcasting the reality that troubled youth will never get the satisfaction they are looking for by entering into the criminal world. As local organizations all over Southern California communities work hard to put an end to street gangs once and for all, the public sector can pitch in for minimal costs. First, law enforcement can be reassigned to better patrol dangerous neighborhoods using intelligence driven law enforcement methods. Non-paid community action volunteers and reserves can be recruited to provide support help to full time officers should public funding be an issue. Secondly, the marketing departments of each public government agency should be allowed to post public messages encouraging parents to take care of their children in order to keep them out of gangs. Good parenting cannot be legislated but putting out a strong public message can be a powerful tool against the violence. Stopping gang crime and violence certainly is a notion that can be universally agreed upon in the public sector.

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