Local News

Feb 9, 2010 11:45 PM by Ariel Wesler

Three-day summit targets gang violence

It's a first for the Santa Maria Valley--a unique community-wide summit designed to find solutions to a growing gang problem.

The summit started today and is by invitation only. It's being held at the Abel Maldonado Youth Center in Santa Maria and is part of the Santa Maria Valley Collaborative Leadership Project.

The meeting was closed to the media so certain individuals could remain anonymous and speak freely.

December 12th: A gang fight breaks out during a late night party on north easy street. An 18-year old is stabbed to death, and just over a week ago, a gang-related shooting on South Curryer Street sends two victims to the hospital. Police continue to make arrests but can't solve the gang problem alone.

"Even broader than that, there's a youth violence problem," said Santa Maria City Councilor Mike Cordero.

Now, community members from diverse backgrounds are sitting down to find solutions.

"People from the business line, moms and dads, law enforcement, medical people, people from the faith based community," Cordero said.

More than 100 people from throughout Santa Barbara County were invited to be part of a three-day workshop to share ideas about how to curb youth violence.

"It's kind of hard for a mom to talk to a son about something like that. That'd be something more his father could do," said Rose Gonzales of Santa Maria.

Her son has been to juvenile hall and just finished a court-ordered boot camp for the third time.

"It's not helping the kids. I mean, they keep getting in trouble. They keep going back," Gonzales said.

"I see new gangs that are coming up. I see the kids getting involved at a younger age. Not only boys, but girls also," said Eddie Galerza with the Boys and Girls Club.

Of the 2500 gang members documented county wide, nearly half live in the Santa Maria Valley and Lompoc.

"We're looking at some parenting issues. We might be looking at other mentoring things. We might be looking at something in addition to the schools. I don't know exactly what's going to come out of it," Cordero said.

But that won't stop local leaders from searching for answers.

Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisor Joe Centeno is responsible for organizing the three-day work session.

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