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New Head Of San Diego Gang Commission Looks Forward

Graffiti in an alley in the Lincoln Park neighborhood of San Diego is shown i...

Photo by KPBS Staff

Above: Graffiti in an alley in the Lincoln Park neighborhood of San Diego is shown in this undated photo.

It's a new year, and there's a new head of the Commission on Gang Prevention and Intervention, the city group that gives advice on how to decrease gang violence.

Jesus Sandoval is a former gang member who became a pastor in City Heights in 2003. He uses what he calls a wraparound approach, working with a gang member and his or her family.

"For the active gang member, we partner them up with a former gang member from that gang," he said. "So the credibility is already there, the rapport is already there."

Sandoval will be the new executive director of the City’s Commission on Gang Prevention and Intervention. The previous director, Ricky Laster, died last May.

The city has been criticized in the past by members of the gang commission for not giving the group enough funding to do anything.

"The Commission on Gangs is ineffective, and communities affected by gangs should develop their own commission," wrote Cornelius Bowser, a San Diego pastor and member of the commission. "The city of San Diego might be OK with wasteful spending, but I am not OK with wasting my time."

Laila Aziz, the head of the advocacy group Pillars of the Community, says she's optimistic that Sandoval was chosen to head the commission and hopes he can get more results.

"Make them put their money where their mouth is, make them invest in the programs that you have going on in City Heights and at the church," she said. "He knows how to do it, I'm just afraid the red tape is going to take away the power of a person that can do some real good."

Sandoval said there will always be red tape.

"But there's always a way to do things," he said. "Just like a light turns red, it turns yellow and then it turns green. So it takes patience, it takes respect and humility."

San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer chose Sandoval for the position. Faulconer also appointed Rev. Gerald Brown to be the city’s executive director of Police-Community Relations. In a statement, Faulconer said both men will help his office and the San Diego Police Department work more closely with the community.

"They are trusted community leaders who have worked tirelessly to reduce gang violence and their experience will help improve public safety in neighborhoods through the city," he said.

It's a new year, and there's a new head of the Commission on Gang Prevention and Intervention, the city group that gives advice on how to decrease gang violence.

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