As local kids skateboarded around the parking lot bare-chested in the afternoon sun, a throng of local and state officials clustered in front of the Mountain View Community Center in southeastern San Diego in smart suits to announce a slew of new grants for local organizations and municipalities.

The grants, which were issued by the Governor’s Office of Gang and Youth Violence Policy and the California Labor and Workforce Development Agency, amount to a total of $1.6 million for community based groups and local governments.

The grants are part of a total of $16.5 million that is being aimed at combating gang violence and providing job training for troubled youth. The grants are part of the governor’s California Gang Reduction, Intervention and Prevention Initiative. The cash comes from the State Restitution Fund and from federal money set aside for workforce development.

The funding comes after San Diego has seen a 23 percent spike in gang crime. Lynn Sharpe-Underwood, executive director of the city of San Diego’s Commission on Gang Prevention and Intervention, said the money is a welcome addition to the city’s effort to combat gang crime at its source.

“We need to keep moving forward,” Sharpe-Underwood said. “And if there’s some life we can save, some youth we can work with, some young person who can have an opportunity they didn’t have before then they can now move forward.”

The grants break down as follows:

  • City of Chula Vista — $335,070
  • City of San Diego — $400,000
  • Horn of Africa Community (community based organization) — $160,000
  • North County Lifeline (City of Vista community based organization) — $159,030
  • Turning the Hearts Center (community based organization) — $160,000
  • Metro United Methodist Urban Ministry (city of San Diego) — $395,688.

San Diego Police Chief Bill Lansdowne said the city’s grant will help to support revamped efforts by the SDPD to combat gang crime. He said the department recently added a second gang suppression team and that the grant will help pay for overtime for that unit.

And he said the money will help the department with their prevention efforts. He offered an example.

“We now have a juvenile services officer assigned directly to the gang suppression team at night. As we find young people who are associating with gangs, but aren’t members yet, we’re able to take them directly to their residence and work with the family who ask us where they can get help,” Lansdowne said.

The additional funds mean the community groups the department points such families towards are open longer hours and have more resources to help San Diegans, Lansdowne said.

WILL CARLESS

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