More than two dozen people gathered at the Mission Beacon Center Thursday afternoon to plan a community response to the recent rise in gang violence, which includes three shootings in the past two weeks.
The goal of the group, which calls itself the Mission Peace Collaboration, is to set an agenda for violence prevention and outreach within the greater Mission community and for specific individuals who are involved in or associated with gangs.
“It’s a war, so you need troops in the streets to enforce community will,” said Ray Balberan, a member of the San Francisco Community Response Network.
The discussion was facilitated by Valerie Tulier, director of the Mission Beacon Center, who coordinated initial efforts to bring community leaders together.
“Our message is that we are concerned,” Tulier told the group.
Short-term goals expressed by the group included reaching out to the parents of gang members, planning a vigil where Mission youth can voice their thoughts and concerns over the recent deaths, and asking the city for expedited access to funds of up to $10,000 to pay for the extra manpower and resources in the wake of a community emergency.
“It feels like where we are at right now requires another level of engagement,” said Lariza Dugan-Cuadra, executive director of the Central American Resource Center (CARECEN). “The resources are scarce.”
“This violence needs to stop,” Supervisor David Campos told the group at the beginning of the meeting. “We are here more than anything else to listen.”
The collaborators’ long-term strategies include hiring a coordinator to align efforts and ensure consistent messaging to the community; convincing Mission Police Capt. Robert Moser to co-write, with representatives of Mission schools, a letter for parents; and making it a priority for community groups to get out among parents and youth.
“What’s complex about all of this is there are a lot of moving parts,” said Ricardo Garcia-Acosta, the Community Response Network’s program director for the northwest region. “All our youngsters in all the neighborhoods are facing epidemic levels of violence right now.”
The issue of a truce between rival members of the Mission’s Norteño and Sureño gangs was brought up during the meeting, without a clear idea of how to obtain one.
“The only peace and truce you are going to have is with individuals,” Garcia-Acosta said.
In addition to representatives from CARECEN, the Community Response Network and Mission Beacon, others attending the meeting included leaders from the groups Horizons Unlimited, the Conscious Youth Media Program and the Boys and Girls Club, and the associate superintendent of the Mission’s schools.