Gang Violence In San Diego’s North County - What’s Being Done?
Thursday, March 28, 2013
Aired 3/28/13 on KPBS Midday Edition.
Captain Ray Bechler, Investigator, Oceanside Police Dept.
Donald Stump, Executive Director, North County Lifeline
Agner Medrano, Pastor and former gang member who works with at risk groups
SD Crime Stoppers Reward
Gang violence is an ongoing problem in San Diego's North County with nearly two dozen gangs claiming turf along the Highway 78 corridor. The recent shooting of a 13- and 15-year-old at Oceanside's Libby Lake Park has Oceanside Police canvassing the area for witnesses. But fear in the community has made many reluctant to come forward.
Two other teens were killed at the same spot almost two years ago. Authorities say that shooing was gang-related.
Captain Ray Bechler with Oceanside Police says the challenge is getting families and communities involved. He says it's made difficult by the fact that many are immigrants who want to limit their interaction with police. The city has a number of programs in place in the area of prevention but also intervention with their "Gang Suppression Unit" where they work in conjunction with the schools of the Oceanside Unified School District working with at-risk youth to deter them from joining gangs.
Former gang member turned pastor Agner Medrano tells KPBS he was lured into a Carlsbad gang at the age of 12. He now mentors at risk kids. He meets one-on-one with gang members to gain their confidence and become a sort of big brother or father figure to them. "We encourage them," he says, " and we try to reach their heart to find out what they care about most - when you get into their heart - then you get to everything else." Agner says it opens the door for gang members to think about other activities they can become involved with - instead of the gang.
There are prevention programs in place throughout North County, according to Donald Stump, executive director of North County Lifeline. They look for kids who might be at risk, as early as elementary school. Stump says it's important to "keep them busy to keep them out of a gang." He stresses that intervention is needed, but it comes at a cost and with budget cuts there's very little funding.
Stump says getting parents involved is crucial. "They need to know what's going on with their kid," he says. North County Lifeline has programs in place to work in this area.