Mayor Jerry Sanders, Councilman Tony Young, members of the San Diego Foundation and community representatives just held a press conference to introduce a new initiative aimed at fighting gang violence in San Diego.

“STOP Gang-related Violence in San Diego” or “STOP NOW” is aimed at “filling the gap” between the Commission on Gang Prevention and Intervention’s long-term goals and the immediate need for safety against gang-related crime, explained Sanders.

San Diego’s various community outreach groups are working hard to combat the influence of gangs, said Young, but without funds to pay outreach workers, they are fighting a losing battle. The initiative, administered by the non-profit San Diego Foundation, will provide a funding mechanism for those grass-roots organizations. So far, the foundation has between $100,000 and $150,000 to distribute in grants.

Cecil Steppe, President and CEO of the Urban League of San Diego County, welcomed the new move, and explained why it’s important for community outreach organizations to receive funding for their work.

“In gangland, most of the problems happen at 1 a.m., 2 a.m., 3 a.m. We need individuals to be walking the streets in the hours that the gang members are out there. Most of us in the non-profit world don’t have the capacity to send people to walk the streets at 1 a.m,” he said.

With the funds to pay staff to administer outreach services at night, Steppe said, community organizations will be much better equipped to combat the influence of gangs in their neighborhoods.

Police Chief William Landsdowne welcomed the measure as “The first step on the road to make my job easier.”

“The best way to prevent crime from happening is to have the right people in the right place,” he said, “so this is a good day for San Diego.”

Mayor Sanders was also enthusiastic about the initiative, which he said grew out of a meeting he held in southeastern San Diego last December.

“It’s not just one part of the city we’re talking about,” Sanders said. “Every part of this city has its problems with violence at one time or another and that’s why I want to work with the communities to find solutions.”

Grant-seekers will be able to view guidelines for grant applications on the foundation’s website later today.

WILL CARLESS

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