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Strategies For Reducing Gang Violence In San Diego

Audio

Aired 9/13/10

What's being done to reduce the number of gangs in our community? We'll discuss the gang problem, and the local efforts to educate the youth and their parents about the dangers associated with gangs. We'll also talk about some of the successful gang prevention programs that are available in San Diego.

The University of San Diego's Joan B. Kroc Institute for Peace & Justice will hold "The Gang Prevention and Intervention Summit" tomorrow from 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH (Host): I'm Maureen Cavanaugh, and you're listening to These Days on KPBS. Many of us don't focus on the issue of street gangs in San Diego until some story comes up in the news. We hear about a fight, or a shooting, and we shake our heads and then we move on. But for a lot of kids in San Diego, dealing with gangs is a daily problem. Young people face intimidation and threats from gangs. And the gang members themselves can end up hurt, dead or in prison. This week, gang prevention educators and agencies around San Diego are getting together to share experiences and strategies to stop the spread of gangs. And here at KPBS we’re launching a series of reports on the status of the street gang problem in San Diego County and what's being done about it. I’d like to welcome my guests. Ana Tintocalis is a KPBS reporter. Good morning, Ana.

ANA TINTOCALIS (KPBS Reporter): Good morning.

CAVANAUGH: Anthony Ceja is coordinator for the Student Support Services Department at the San Diego County Office of Education. Anthony, good morning.

ANTHONY CEJA (Coordinator, Student Support Services Department, San Diego County Office of Education): Good morning.

CAVANAUGH: And Rosa Ana Lozada is CEO of Harmonium, a community-based social services program that promotes self-sufficiency in children, youth and adults. Rosa Ana and Harmonium are members of the San Diego Commission on Gang Prevention and Intervention. Rosa Ana, welcome.

ROSA ANA LOZADA (CEO, Harmonium): Thank you so much. Good morning.

CAVANAUGH: And we are inviting our listeners to join the conversation. What kind of gang activity do you see in your neighborhood. What do you tell your kids and what do your kids tell you about gang members at school? Give us a call with your questions and your comments. Our number is 1-888-895-5727, 1-888-895-KPBS. Ana, let’s start out with some basics about how big the problem is here. For example, how many gangs are there in San Diego County?

TINTOCALIS: Well, it’s important to note that gangs touch almost every community in San Diego County. And so in looking at the numbers, the San Diego County DA’s office and San Diego police say there are up to 200 distinct gangs in San Diego County. And when you take a look at that number in the city, there’s about 100. And then there are roughly 10,000 known, documented gang members. And, again, when you take a look at what that’s like in the city, there’s about 4,000 to 5,000 documented gang members. And that number, there could be more gang members. There could be more gangs. For law enforcement and the police, they really need to have full documentation, almost a mountain of evidence to prove someone is a gang member in the eyes of the law. So sometimes they might have partial documentation. I was also told that gangs are a rotating group. It’s hard to get this type of evidence because some might get killed. Some go to jail. Some are on parole or probation and they’re laying low. Others get jumped and they are laying low. And, of course, there’s young people always coming in and leaving and going out and maybe moving somewhere else, to another gang, so it’s hard to pinpoint but those are the basic numbers we have thus far.

CAVANAUGH: And just recently, in fact, just last week, SANDAG released a report on violent crime in San Diego and there were some bits of information about gang violence that were in that report. Tell us about that.

TINTOCALIS: Right. Well, this report looked at violent crime in the city of San Diego and they found of all the homicides that took place over the past year, one in four homicides, again, just in the city of San Diego, was gang related. And I think that makes up for about 26% of homicides were gang related. So that’s – actually, that’s a pretty significant decrease when you take a look at what has happened over the past several years. In 2007 is when we had a really big gang flare up in our city. In fact, gang crime was documented to be a big part of the city’s overall crime problem. So I think from that point you started seeing people getting together and trying to figure out how to tackle this problem. And I think this suggests that whatever they’re doing, it is somewhat effective. I do want to note, though, and it’s important to note that this only highlighted violent crime and just for the city of San Diego, not for San Diego County, and they didn’t look at assaults. And I’ve been told by a number of police officers here in San Diego that when it comes to gang related assaults, assaults have remained the same, maybe has dipped a little bit but police say they are seeing more gang related stabbings. In north county, I was told not a week that goes by when there isn’t some sort of shooting or stabbing there. We’re still seeing beat downs, people getting jumped and attacked. We’re seeing burglaries, drug dealing. We’re seeing gang members pushing young girls as prostitutes. We’re still seeing vandalism and that’s important because these tag-banging groups can become violent gangs. So while it’s good news that violent homicides is going down, you have to take it with a grain of salt and look at the big picture.

CAVANAUGH: Now, Ana, as I said in the open, on the subject of gangs and the impact they have on our community, you are leading a project here at KPBS that is focusing on that. Can you tell us more about this project and the issues that you’re going to be exploring?

TINTOCALIS: Right. Yeah, well, I wanted to just delve into this topic. Normally, I report on education and about a year and a half ago I was doing some reporting around Lincoln High School, which is in southeastern San Diego, and I was just really moved because there are these two young teenagers, Monique Palmer, who was 17 years old, and Michael Taylor, who was 15, and these young people were beating the odds. They were transcending the violence in their neighborhood, gangs in their neighborhood. Monique was a rising academic star. She was getting good grades. She got accepted into Cal State Los Angeles, and she was actually part of a youth group that tried to encourage young people to stay away from violence, to get out of gangs or not join gangs. Michael, on the other hand, was a rising football star. He was just a freshman, 15 years old, yet he was playing varsity football for Point Loma High School. He was bused to that school. And these two young people were friends. As teenagers do, they were walking to a – to go to a house party. They wanted to have fun on a Saturday night. And they picked the wrong house party at the wrong time, and they were simply walking and three, what I have been told, three vehicles full of gangbangers pretty much just opened fired – opened fire, and shot these two young people in cold blood. Monique died on the spot and Michael was taken to a hospital and died there. And it just – it moved me because I knew that school community and there are so many Monique Palmers and Michael Taylors in the county, and so often we hear about gang shootings or stabbings in these one-minute pieces on the news and we don’t connect the dots and we don’t see the faces that are tied to this problem. So what I wanted to do was raise awareness. I think a lot of people have this kind of NIMBY attitude about gang problems, it’s Not In My Back Yard. In fact, it’s in your back yard. And people don’t either want to admit it or they dance around the issue and act like they’re not living in a gang neighborhood. And I just think it’s such a huge social problem and a common experience in our county that we need to start talking about it even though, you know, violent homicides might be going down in the city. This is still – they’re still – gangs are still thriving in our county and we need to take a look at it and be honest about it.

CAVANAUGH: That’s KPBS reporter Ana Tintocalis about the start of a series of reports here on gangs in San Diego County. My other two guests, I’d like to reintroduce. Anthony Ceja is with the San Diego County Office of Education and Rosa Ana Lozada is CEO of Harmonium. And we’re taking your calls at 1-888-895-5727. There are some people who want to join our conversation but before we go to the phones, Anthony, I’d like to get your reaction to this story that Ana told us.

CEJA: Well, I mean, Ana’s correct. I mean, one of the problems in our county and I think in, honestly, most counties in our country is that people are not educated about the issue and oftentimes they could be in denial. They just may not understand the issue, and one of the things that we try to do is spread education. We try to educate parents, school staff, community people about what they need to do to look – what they need to look out for. What are the signs, the risk signs, and then what do they need to do within their own homes and communities in order to prevent the problem from even happening? Because once it does start to happen and a person gets really involved in gangs, it can be extremely difficult to get them out, and it becomes very much a law enforcement issue at that point.

CAVANAUGH: How high a priority is the gang problem with the County Office of Education?

CEJA: Well, fortunately, my boss, Superintendent Ward, and all my other superiors, they have allowed me to work in this for the last 12 years. And so it takes that commitment from organizations like the county office of ed to say, yes, we believe that it is important for schools to be safe. You know, we know that children can only learn if they feel safe. If they’re unsafe, if they’re threatened, when they’re in a classroom, they cannot focus on math and English and history and everything else. So that’s one of the things that I try to do with – throughout the county.

CAVANAUGH: Now, Rosa Ana, you are a member of the San Diego Commission on Gang Prevention and Intervention. We heard from Ana that – the good news that gang related homicides are down, and the bad news that gangs are still permeate our school (sic) and are a real problem for youth around San Diego County. I’d like to get your reaction to both those two polar opposites, so to speak.

LOZADA: Well, I definitely agree with Ana and I really like that she mentioned that it’s really a violence issue, that it’s not just exclusively gang, it’s violence. And to that end, it does impact all of our communities whether we want to believe it or accept it or not. And Anthony mentioned the role of education in schools and, certainly, Randolph Ward, the Superintendent of County Office of Education, is one of the members of the Commission of Prevention and Intervention, so what we have done is set forth a strategic plan that addresses the array of prevention intervention suppression services interventions. What is unique about San Diego is looking at a collaborative effort that brings key leadership from law enforcement, faith-based communities, community-based organizations, you know, and through the leadership of the mayor, and really the vision of the council members, Tony Young being one of them, in response to what has happened in our community, creating a forum whereby we can work together in collaboration to develop multiple strategies to address this problem jointly. I feel like we’re very fortunate in San Diego. I just came from a national institute that’s a prevention institute looking at multiple strategies and recognizing that it really needs to be multi-prong strategies put in place to address the problem from, once again, the prevention, intervention, and not just the suppression.

CAVANAUGH: Well, let’s take a few phone calls. We are taking your calls at 1-888-895-5727. We’re talking about anti-gang efforts throughout San Diego County. And Gitta is on the line from Rancho Penasquitos. Good morning, Gitta. Welcome to These Days.

GITTA (Caller, Rancho Penasquitos): Good morning. I wanted to make a comment because we live in an uplands area here. My son went to – is going to Mesa Verde Middle School in Poway. It has one of the highest test scores in the nation, and yet a year ago, you know, he told me he wanted to join a gang. And, you know, my husband is an ER physician, I’m a nurse practitioner and we’re, you know, we’re in the top of the society here. And with my little son who is so bright and so industrious telling me, mom, I want to join a gang. And I don’t know how this infiltrated the Poway School District. Also, he was introduced to marijuana from a boy from Carmel Valley Westview High School, so for the past year, my son, who is GATE material, still in sixth grade, has been smoking marijuana and we’re looking at, you know, major problems that is infiltrating school and it makes us, as parents, look so bad. As a result of all this pain and suffering in my family, I’ve been – I’ve started a doctoral program in leadership in education and working to start a charter school in the greatest (audio dropout) school. So my son, my three sons—I have three sons. David is the eldest—can see a different way of education and can have healthy habits and not want to join gangs and feel that high from marijuana. And, you know, how do you determine school success with high test scores if we cannot see it in everyday life. And I was just really concerned that he was exposed to gangs and marijuana, etcetera, in the middle school and it seems like the educators are just not even paying attention.

CAVANAUGH: Gitta…

GITTA: And my son failed sixth grade and I hear – and he’s in seventh grade, and today I dropped him off and I’ve been crying for half an hour, praying.

CAVANAUGH: Gitta, thank you. Let me just try to address your concern a little bit. We have some experts on our panel here and I can hear that you’re just at your wit’s end about this, and I really do appreciate your calling in. And, Anthony, what can you tell Gitta about – she’s so concerned about her son.

CEJA: Sure. First of all, I’d like to say, you know, I – I respect all that you’re doing in the sense that, you know, you’re saying you’re trying to find a solution and I normally don’t hear what you said and that was that your son came to you and said he wants to join a gang. That almost never happens. The only time that you’ll ever have that is if a son or a daughter respects their mother enough to go and kind of reach out to them and talk to them about it. I’m just telling you 99% -- you’re the first person I’ve never heard, actually ever, say that their son came to them to say, mom, I think I’m going to join a gang. To me, that is then a chance for you, even though I know it’s difficult, I know it’s emotionally difficult for you, for you to then put in some of the time that you’re doing like you are now in intervening, finding out what you can do, reaching out to him, talking to him. One of the things – sometimes what we’ll do is we’ll have law enforcement actually sit with a young person and talk to them about the real consequences. We also will have even former gang members who have actually lost many, many friends and even some of them have been shot, stabbed, so they actually tell them, you know, you’re getting into this life but let me tell you, this is what is coming down the road. And it’s – I just hear in you such a passion. I really have a lot of hope for your son and your family.

CAVANAUGH: Is there a website or a hotline that she could possibly call to get more information?

CEJA: If she would like to, one thing that she could do is if she’d like to e-mail me at aceja@sdcoe.net what I’ll do is I will send her one of our – or a couple of them. We have a couple of DVDs that are gang prevention DVDs that will help educate her about the issue but will also have – it contains in there the stories of former gang members who can talk about what the real – like the reality. And I guarantee you, her son will watch it and really be engaged in it.

CAVANAUGH: We actually do have a segment from one of those DVDs, don’t we, Ana?

TINTOCALIS: Right, yeah, I actually pulled a clip from one of it. And this is – the clip we’re going to play, this young lady, her name is Cathy Casanova and she’s a reformed gangbanger. And, you know, she’s – she got jumped in, she jumped other people, she was beat up by her boyfriend. She had a teen pregnancy. But the worst part of it all, and this is what she explains, is that she got her brother involved in a gang, and this is what we see so many times, the gang culture, mentality, identity is passed down from generation to generation and these families are gang families. You know, the father was a gang member, the mother’s a gang member, and the young child becomes a gang member. And that child hands it over to their siblings. So this is what she had to say.

(clip from DVD, former gang member speaking)

CATHY CASANOVA (Former Gang Member): I know for sure that I influenced my brother to become a gang member. He was not into that life. As soon as I got jumped in, he got involved. It was just very hard for me to carry that guilt because now he’s in prison doing six years. That’s my only brother and I miss him so much. It’s very hard. It’s messed up when you go to a job that you really want and they tell you you can’t get it. It’s messed up when the cops stop you and you know you’re doing good but you know where you got some ‘hood tattoos on you so it doesn’t matter anymore. It’s hard that I have a son with a birth certificate with no father’s name on it. Yeah, they’re right, it’s smile now, cry later. It’s so true. I smiled all my teen years. But I’m 24 and I don’t know when I’ll stop crying. Life is rough, and if I could do it, if I could make my life better from all the crap that I had, anybody can make their life better. There’s people in worse situations than me, so I just feel that these kids – you can get out. Just like you got in, you can get out. And you’re fighting for your life. This is the fight for your life.

TINTOCALIS: So, and that explains the common experience with a lot of young people and I think the video serves as a great way to deter kids who are thinking about getting into it. They don’t think of all the consequences and the aftermath of what they’re getting into. They might think it’s cool. They might want to belong. The socio-economic factors in their neighborhood create an environment where they have to support a gang in one way or another. And – But there is hope and you can get out, but it does take a lot more of – from what my understanding is, a lot more intervention, and I think that’s what social service agencies are trying to grapple with, is how do we provide that piece of the puzzle.

CAVANAUGH: We just heard that DVD and that’s available through the San Diego County Office of Education. Rosa Ana, what are other methods of intervention?

LOZADA: Well, you know, I’m still moved by both the caller as well as the segment, and very touched by hearing parents oftentimes and although it’s very challenging because childhood and adolescent periods and stages of development is a time of confusion, of making choices, of parents struggling. Whether your child is going to be at risk of entering gang activity or violence, it’s just a time where children and youth are struggling to make positive decisions and influenced by peers and all. As I had mentioned earlier, it really requires multiple efforts from resources and working together and that’s the good news because violence is preventable, and I want to underscore that. Because it’s preventable, there’s an opportunity for everyone to partake in some way in addressing the problem. We did, through the commission in a partnership with the University of San Diego Joan Kroc School of Peace Studies with Dr. Amy Carpenter, a listening tour and in that listening tour it underscored what we keep seeing nationally as good practices, that you need community services, that you need social interventions, mentorship programs, role models for youth, recreational activities, positive outlets that deter them from negative activities, information for families and for youth, as Anthony mentioned, with videos like what they have prepared through the County Office of Education…

CAVANAUGH: And…

LOZADA: …awareness, which is something that we’re doing today. Sometimes they need something even a little bit more comprehensive such as alcohol and substance abuse or mental health intervention. And sometimes it’s going to your religious groups and just reconnecting with faith-based communities and feeling that sense of support like in some of the churches that we see very involved with the activities.

CAVANAUGH: We have to take a short break. When we return, we’ll continue our discussion about anti-gang activities and coordinations in San Diego. There’s going to be a big meeting tomorrow at USD’s Joan Kroc Institute on campus, bringing together a lot of different agencies about how to work against gangs in San Diego. We’re taking your calls at 1-888-895-5727. You’re listening to These Days on KPBS.

CAVANAUGH: I'm Maureen Cavanaugh. You're listening to These Days on KPBS. This week gang prevention educators and agencies around San Diego are getting together to share experiences and strategies to stop the spread of gangs. And we’re talking about that this morning with Ana Tintocalis, KPBS News Reporter, Anthony Ceja, Coordinator for Student Support Services Department at the San Diego County Office of Education, and Rosa Ana Lozada, who is CEO of Harmonium, a community-based social services program that promotes self-sufficiency and well being in children, youth and adults. And we’re taking your calls at 1-888-895-5727. Let’s go right to the phones and hear from Ray. He’s on the line from La Mesa. Good morning, Ray, and welcome to These Days.

RAY (Caller, La Mesa): Hi. Thank you for taking my call.

CAVANAUGH: You’re welcome.

RAY: I pretty much just had a comment, I guess. As a father of a son in the school system I think it’s great that the programs we have to prevent crime prevention (sic) – or gang prevention, are – I think they need to remain intact. I think they’re a good help. But I truly think as kids reach the teenage years that rather than giving them more freedom that those are really years when we need to, as parents, bring them closer to us. And I think a lot of times when kids join gangs, they do it to fill a void and I think that void really is attention and love from home. And I think if you look at a lot of the kids or just men in general who are in prison, one thing that they don’t have in their life is a responsible father figure. And I think it really starts at home, I really believe that.

CAVANAUGH: Ray, thanks.

RAY: Thank you very much.

CAVANAUGH: Thank you for the call, Ray. And, Anthony…

CEJA: Sure.

CAVANAUGH: …you wanted to respond.

CEJA: Yeah, thank you, Ray. I have seen what you’re talking about. I’ve gone to literally, at this point, hundreds of schools to do parent evening, educational evenings, for them. And when I’m at the elementary schools, I see, you know, parents more engaged more willing to be there for their little children. And then at the middle and high school, I begin to see it drop off, like somehow they begin to go, oh, well, they’re getting older and now I don’t need to be as engaged. And you are exactly correct, especially in the middle school years and high school years, that’s when they need us most, for us to try to draw them in, for us to find out what is going on with them, what – what are they attracted to? What’s – what are some of their challenges? One of the things that I really promote very strongly is that we, as parents, need to learn to listen. We need to learn to stop necessarily just preaching all the time and telling them and using punishment. We need to learn to keep that communication open with our children of that age that you’re talking about because if not, what ends up happening is they won’t come to us when they have problems. Like Gitta’s son, that called earlier, he came to her and said I want to join a gang. But that was because somehow she has maintained this open communication with her son. So I just think that is extremely important.

CAVANAUGH: Anthony, what do we know about why young people join gangs?

CEJA: Some of the – The gentleman that called is correct. Sometimes they’re looking for attention. Sometimes it’s because they’re having family problems at home and they actually will go out into the streets and kind of hang out at parks and do whatever. But sometimes they’re looking for respect. They don’t feel a sense of pride, and sometimes even they’ll – you’ll find that some groups will come together almost like in an ethnic gang and then so what they do is, they begin to feel pride for the first time in their lives when they have been feeling for years being put down and partly because of some of the racism that exists. So you have a lot of different reasons why young people are attracted to gangs.

TINTOCALIS: And I’ll give an example of that. Something that I’m coming to understand is that when it comes to the undocumented immigrant population here in San Diego County, what you’re seeing is those parents, they’re not legals but they’re working a couple jobs. They don’t want to turn to law enforcement or schools because those parents are a little afraid of government and people within these type of agencies, so their children are sometimes the most vulnerable because they don’t have supervision at home because their parents are working. And they want a sense of belonging. You know, they come from an undocumented immigrant family and they want to hang onto a group of people they can feel legitimate around. So what you’re seeing is a lot of gang members who are undocumented immigrants themselves or come from undocumented immigrant families and that’s just an example of what you’re seeing.

CAVANAUGH: Let’s take another call. Fate is calling from San Diego. Fate, good morning and welcome to These Days.

FATE (Caller, San Diego): Good morning. How are you doing?

CAVANAUGH: I’m doing great. Thank you.

FATE: Okay, good. I was just calling, you know, I’d soon being not to long ago but I’ve kind of heard more of a, you know, people that are – that have worked with gangs and kind of, you know, are trying to help out, okay, but I’ve never heard personally on the station nobody that’s actually been in gangs and…

CAVANAUGH: Right.

FATE: …what’s been in – You know, I’m 25 years old. I started gangbanging, I think, at a older age. I started at 14. You know, most everybody that was around my neighborhood started gangbanging, you know, out of elementary, nine, ten, and stuff like that. But I’m not – I don’t bang per se. I love Crips, I love Bloods, I love Nortenos, Surenos, everything. But the thing is it’s hard because, you know, I’m black, you know, and black in black areas, you know, I mean, I can’t say I’m new to San Diego but mostly in black areas, it’s education already messed up. You know, we had the same textbooks that our parents are studying.

CAVANAUGH: Umm-hmm.

FATE: And, you know, and when your parents, you know, yeah, a lot of us come from single parents, not all of us but a lot of us did. But when you have, you know, that education, you already seen that that hasn’t worked, you know, in things that – I mean, there’s some that slip through the cracks and then you have entertainers, you know, football players, rappers, and that’s cool but and, you know, that keeps a lot out of trouble but those are, you know, there’s a one in a million chance so when you see – when you’re going and you’re not really having the best education, your parents aren’t really stressing on you that education’s a big thing, and the only people that you see in the neighborhood that have the nice cars and all the girls and the nice clothes are the ones who’re gangbang or are selling drugs, you know…

CAVANAUGH: So…

FATE: …and usually that kind of go hand in hand.

CAVANAUGH: So, Fate, you started out saying that nobody on this panel’s actually ever been a gang member. What do you know that we don’t?

FATE: Oh, no, no, no. I didn’t say – I’m not saying it like that. I’m saying I’m hearing it from a point of a older perspective.

CAVANAUGH: Right.

FATE: You know, what I’m hearing. And what really got me going and everything else was a school called Woodland University. It’s a community school, and what really got me going on that because it was – when you learn real true black history, I mean, you know, it was Benjamin Banneker who built downtown D.C., you know, actually built the first clock.

CAVANAUGH: Uh-huh.

FATE: You learn, you know, that the stoplight was made by a black man. You know, when you learn Mexican history, American-Mexican history and you really didn’t know the history of what, you know, Europeans have done, you know, and there’s a lot of European teachers with the university, too. It’s predominantly, you know, a minority but…

CAVANAUGH: Right.

FATE: …when you learn true – true education that pertains to you, that you weren’t just a slave and Martin Luther King had a dream, you know, then it really, you know, that – those kind of things become important to you.

CAVANAUGH: Fate, thank you. I got to stop you there because we’ve got to react to what – you’ve said an awful lot but I appreciate your calling in. You gave us a really good perspective. Anthony, you’d like to react.

CEJA: I appreciate the call a lot and I do – One of the things I’ve promoted for a long time is the use of people like Fate, I think that’s his name.

CAVANAUGH: Fate.

CEJA: And where he – in a sense, he’s a former gang member but now he’s gone through a transformation and he has something to offer. For me, they’re some of the most passionate, powerful people I’ve had in the work that we do. And one of the things that I noticed when he was talking is that he connected somehow to education. He found out about his roots. He found out about his history. He became – he got the pride in the right way rather than what oftentimes happens is the pride, almost like a false pride, that happens sometimes in gangs where people are – kind of pump up and it becomes almost like a hate everybody else type of thing. So to me, that type of education that he experienced, I think, we need to promote more and more of, where people can actually connect to the positive things that our people have done, you can feel good about yourself but not have to then put other people down at the same time.

LOZADA: Well…

CAVANAUGH: Rosa Ana, I just wanted to mention because you’ve been talking about a holistic approach so often and Fate mentioned, you know, learning about the background, the background of black history, the background of Mexican-American history, and you wouldn’t think that would be a deterrent to gang membership but apparently that’s part of the holistic approach as well.

LOZADA: Absolutely. And I do appreciate, as Anthony mentioned, the perspective of former gang members because there is a lot to learn about what made the difference for them. I think we know why gangs get involved in that kind of activity. What is more interesting to me is what helps them make that transition. And, really, learning from them, hearing their experience, which goes back to positive support, knowing different options, making positive choices, having an education, skill building, those are part of the components as well as their good mental health, the impact of – I mean, how do they cope?

CAVANAUGH: Right.

LOZADA: How do – how do we all cope when we’re feeling stress and especially in today’s economy things can be very difficult for all of us.

CAVANAUGH: Right. And, Ana, you wanted to comment.

TINTOCALIS: Well, yeah, it’s this idea of when you’re talking about role models and what’s happening in education, I mean, time and time again I hear this idea of the need for cultural, relevant classes. And, you know, it’s kind of a big word. But basically, you know, talking about and infusing it in your curriculum with cases and themes and topics that include Hispanic people, Mexican people, black, African-American history. All this stuff might seem kind of superficial but if you really can embed it within a curriculum and your day-to-day teaching and you have a Hispanic male teacher in a classroom, that can go a long way to making someone feel like they’re not an outsider in education. What I’ve heard is that when it comes to gang members, they see school as this social hangout place; it’s not a place to learn, it’s not a place to get an education. In fact, education is looked down on in the gang culture. So there’s so many factors at play but I think that’s what the caller was trying to get at, is this need for really culturally relevant education that can bring young minds in.

CEJA: And one of the other things I’d like to say is that he mentioned that, you know, in the black neighborhoods it’s like this, and I’m sure a lot of people would say, oh, in the Mexican neighborhoods it’s like this, or in my ‘hood, I kind of grew up in this – you know, in these schools all like this. But the reality is that the majority, the large majority of people in those neighborhoods and in those schools are not in gangs. They really are not. And they’re really good, hardworking people, they’re fantastic families, and that – but that some kids—and a number of kids, I’m not – I don’t want to minimize it, but I just want to make sure that we understand that the large majority of people out there are not in gangs.

CAVANAUGH: We are just about out of time and, Ana, I do want to – want you to explain to us briefly, if you can, we’re creating a special section on our website as part of your project so what kind of information can people find?

TINTOCALIS: Right, so this is going to be kind of a stationwide effort in focusing on gang activity, and the goal is to really raise awareness and talk about how gangs affect the daily lives of people in a community. So on the website, I’ll be feeding all my radio stories and there’ll also be TV stories. We’re also looking to build a map as a public tool for people to find out what is happening in their neighborhood and, you know, we’ll have audio slide shows and short video clips, things that were on the cutting room floor but just as important. So we’re really hoping to feed all this into the website.

CAVANAUGH: And you can find that growing at KPBS.org/gangs. USD’s “Gang Prevention Summit" takes place tomorrow at the Joan Kroc Institute on campus. I want to thank Ana and Anthony and Rosa Ana, thank you so much for talking with us today. Really appreciate it.

TINTOCALIS: Thank you.

LOZADA: Thank you.

CEJA: You’re welcome.

CAVANAUGH: You’ve been listening to These Days on KPBS.

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