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The reason we will never stop gang violence and crimes, and I mean not even come close to a solution, is because those with the power, money and resources don’t care.
Yes, of course they pretend to care, but when it comes to action, well, there is none. For example, I am a commissioner on the city of San Diego’s Commission on Gang Prevention and Intervention. We developed a strategic action plan last year to prevent our youth from joining gangs and to intervene in the lives of those who are involved with gangs. The plan was received with unanimous support from City Council, yet Mayor Kevin Faulconer’s office has not offered us not even one dollar to implement it. In fact, the mayor has been missing in action when it comes to addressing San Diego’s gang problem.
I wonder if the powers that be care about the plight of young black and brown men and women. Just look at the disparities between the racial makeup of the jail and prison population of San Diego residents and the racial makeup of the city and county as a whole.
SANDAG, a public planning and research agency, released a report for arrests made in San Diego for 2014 that places blacks at 116 arrests per 1,000 people compared with 31.1 white people arrested per 1,000.
Blacks represent 5 to 6 percent of the population in San Diego. You do the math.
SANDAG also noted in its report that “Adult arrestees with a gang affiliation differ significantly from those with no affiliation in some key ways, including being single, having more needs in some areas (e.g., history of homelessness) and more criminal justice contact (e.g., having an arrest as a juvenile, history of drug sales, history of serving time in jail). Adult arrestees with a gang affiliation were also more likely to have substance use issues, including being more likely to have experimented with marijuana, meth, heroin, cocaine, and crack.”
“Adult arrestees with a gang affiliation were also more likely to have substance-use issues, including being more likely to have experimented with marijuana, meth, heroin, cocaine, and crack,” according to the report.
Should we be angry about mass incarceration, low-income communities that are struggling to survive, lack of opportunities and an unfair allocation of community resources? Yes.
The youth that are most vulnerable, underserved and affected by gangs don’t receive any resources until they get incarcerated or are placed on probation.
So then, who has the power, money and resources? You will have to talk to the Faulconer, the district attorney’s office, the city attorney’s office, county officials, probation, the San Diego Police Department and private foundations. Also, we must hold accountable programs that are receiving money from the government agencies mentioned above, and watch out for the poverty pimps – you know, those guys that try to capitalize on the gang problem in our community to line their pockets.
Until we start developing programs that will throw a lifeline to our youth who are gang-involved, we will never solve our gang problem. We have a collective responsibility to ensure that all San Diegans will have fair and equal access to opportunity. We need a process that will allocate resources to eliminate the root causes of crime, drug use, drug abuse and gangs, including poverty and marginalization.
If we work to improve education, to strengthen families and communities, to create jobs and to help low-income communities develop economically, we will be able to decrease crime, drug use, drug abuse and gangs more effectively. We are going to have to shake this system up to make it work for the benefit of all San Diegans.
Cornelius Bowser is a bishop at Charity Apostolic Church and a commissioner on San Diego’s Commission on Gang Prevention and Intervention. Bowser’s commentary has been edited for style and clarity. See anything in there we should fact check? Tell us what to check out here.