In Del Paso Heights and other areas that have historically grappled with gun violence, community leaders say people are reeling from a string of drive-by shootings involving youth over the weekend. Several were injured and two people died, including a 9-year-old girl.
At a vigil in Cesar Chavez Plaza Monday night, youth mentor Aaron Cardoza described the response.
“I’ve been working three days straight, just phone call after phone call,” he said. “Supporting people from Del Paso Heights who are just concerned about the whole situation. I was talking to a young man and he’s real sad because he doesn’t know if he can ever go back to that park and if he’ll ever be able to play again.”
Cardoza’s referring to Mama Marks Park in Del Paso Heights, where 9-year-old Makaylah Brent was shot and killed on Saturday. Three other people, including a 6-year-old girl, were injured in the same shooting.
The same day, a 17-year-old was found dead from a gunshot wound after having driven into a power pole on Jackson Road near Folsom Boulevard.
In another shooting on Saturday, a drive-by shooter injured three people including a 17-year-old woman in the Strawberry Manor area of North Sacramento. The teen’s mother, Christina Robinson, decided to attend a press conference Monday to talk to Mayor Darrell Steinberg about the incident.
“It’s not gonna calm down,” she said. “It’s just getting worse … All our families are in danger.”
She says her two daughters, 14 and 17, were fired at by a drive-by shooter while visiting their uncle on Saturday. She says her older daughter was shot in the leg and is currently home recovering in a wheelchair
“She’s lucky to be here,” Robinson said. “And if we don’t do anything, we’re going to lose these kids.”
Community Leaders Ask For Investment In Youth
Community leaders say gang activity has increased during the pandemic because so many people are out of work, and that young people may be more tempted to become involved when they’re not attending school. And pop-events, basketball leagues and other activities that keep teens busy are harder to execute with public health orders in place.
Kindra Montgomery-Block, associate director of community and economic development for The Center at the Sierra Health Foundation, says they don’t know the details behind all of the weekend’s incidents, but that stress is definitely a factor.
“There’s deep social economic issues that plague our neighborhoods that drive a lot of this violence,” she said. “And because of that, the spikes in violence are spinning out of control. And we are the folks who get our arms around our neighborhoods to really stand in and make sure that people show up as the best of themselves.”
Leaders issued two major callouts at the Monday vigil: one asking residents of Sacramento neighborhoods dealing with violence to be positive role models and guide teens away from crime, and the other pushing local officials to invest more in programs and jobs that give youth paths to a better future.
“If we have to, on any given Tuesday at a council meeting or a Sac County Board [of] Supervisors meeting, continue to beg, fight for $2 million to put into our communities that deserve it, there is a problem,” said Berry Accius, a community organizer with a nonprofit called Voice of the Youth.
At a press conference Monday afternoon, Steinberg vowed to continue investing a combination of city funding and federal coronavirus relief grants toward youth programs and libraries in low-income neighborhoods, and to improve safety features such as lighting and security cameras in parks in those areas.
“We made an intentional, purposeful leadership decision, when we received the $89 million in COVID relief funding, not to invest it in our general fund, not to fill holes in our budget, but instead to invest it directly in the community,” he said.
In May of 2018, the city, the Sierra Health Foundation and the Black Child Legacy Campaign received a state grant to decrease community violence in Sacramento by providing youth and family case management, job training, parenting education and other interventions.
They used the funding to launch “Healing the Hood,” a program serving Arden-Arcade, Del Paso Heights/North Sacramento, Foothill Farms/North Highlands, Fruitridge/Stockton, Meadowview, Oak Park and Valley Hi. Leaders say that program is the reason there were no youth homicides in the city of Sacramento in 2018 and 2019.
But Robinson, whose children were shot at on Saturday, says when the city vows to invest in underserved neighborhoods it’s “always talk.”
“It’s always saying ‘we're gonna do this, we’re gonna do it together, we’re gonna come up with ideas.’ But there’s no motion,” she said. “There’s nothing moving forward. And that’s what we need ... is something to happen right now.”
On Monday, speakers at the vigil also put an emphasis on the responsibility that residents have to each other and their children to keep neighborhoods safe.
Cardoza, who works with a violence prevention organization called Brother to Brother, had a direct order for men in the community.
“The only way change is gonna come is if fathers out there gang-banging, step up and go get your kid, your son that’s gang banging, pick him up for the first time if you ain’t never seen him,” he said. “Go grab him and take him out of town for a day and talk to him.”
Tanya Bean-Garrett, who lost a teen son to gun violence in 2016 and now helps other mothers of slain children heal, had a similar message.
“When you see your child doing something, check his ass,” she said. “We’re not checking these kids that we see. And we know what they do. Pull ‘em to the side, snatch ‘em up, do what you need to do.”
The civil unrest following police killings of George Floyd and other Black people has also contributed to violence in Sacramento neighborhoods, said Julius Thibodeaux with violence prevention group Advance Peace Sacramento.
“We marchin’ the streets every time somebody else does something to us, then we turn around and we do it to ourselves,” he said. “We got a tough job of trying to bring morals and principles to the devil’s playground … But guess what? We tellin’ the mayor, we tellin’ the city council members, that these young people are worth the investment.”
Community leaders say they’ll spend today through Thursday evening making one-on-one connections with neighborhood leaders and high-risk individuals, posting anti-violence messages on social media and providing additional resources and crisis management services to community centers and faith groups. They’re also launching a crisis hotline and planning a town hall for Thursday.
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