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FORUM

Gang initiative called for here

I was so pleased to see that the city council passed the new gang initiative last week. Thank you for putting the safety of the citizens in this community above racial rhetoric and excuse-making.

This is a community safety issue. It baffles me to see the race card being played so quickly by some. This is a great opportunity to forget our differences and come together as citizens concerned for our community.

I have seen first-hand how gangs have impacted our schools and the students therein. It is a major crisis and needs to be addressed with a strong message to gangs that they are not welcome in our community, regardless of age.

In 2005, the latest statistics I could find showed there were five murders in Sunnyside. With a population of about 14,500, that means 1 in every 2,900 people were murdered in Sunnyside. During that same span, Los Angeles, a city of 3.8 million, had 489 murders. That means 1 in every 7,771 people in Los Angeles were murdered. At least recently, you are 2.5 times more likely to be murdered in Sunnyside than in LA!

In Sunnyside, 1 in 48 experienced a burglary, while in LA 1 in 168 experienced the same. In Sunnyside, 1 in 89 had a car stolen, while in LA it was 1 in 132 (source: citydata.com).

We are a small farm town with major big city crime problems. This is something of which we should be ashamed. Having our heads in the sand will not make this problem go away.

Thank you council members for seeing this and applying the appropriate solution. While I may not have voted for some of you last time around, you have made me rethink the way I will vote this time.

/s/ Troy Whittle, Sunnyside

There is a cure

for gang violence

I would like to respond to the current crisis our community is in due to the gang violence.

First of all, I would like to thank and give support to Dave Martinez, who has stepped up to the plate and is going to give support to those students who need special attention from trained professionals.

Second, I would like to remind this community that we as a community used to have a very strong community and school programs that worked not only with gang problem students, we also had programs in place that assisted the kids that could be at risk for future problems if they were not supported by special programs.

As a community I hope that this community has been able to learn from this crisis and move forward. We have people in our community that think that because of the problematic adolescents they do not deserve to have special activities offered to them because they don't deserve it. These people need to attend a victim's impact panel, they also could clean the headstones in our local cemetery of those killed due to gang violence, maybe then they will finally change their point of view and see that their current way of thinking has major thinking errors and they need to be changed.

What as a community can we do to not fix it but rise to the problem at hand and help this community rise out from the cloud of stagnation and change the road we are currently on? It was said that unless we learn from our mistakes or our past it will be repeated. We have been where we are and we can change the future of our community, but we have to be willing to allow the people who want to provide support to those who need it.

What can we do? That is the easy part.

1) Offer an after-school mentoring program to those at-risk students who meet criteria to attend.

2) Offer support groups in school to these same at-risk students. When I was running support groups in the school I was helping 200+ students per year. It was working.

3) Offer incentives to those who attend these programs (i.e. CD's, movie passes, amusement park admission).

4) Have total buy-in from the community and help these programs by providing the incentives to the programs.

5) Have the community provide funding for qualified persons to run the after-school programs and adequate space to house the number of students in need in our community. Have the funding in place for more than four or five years because we will be raising a new generation of children who will also need special attention five years from now.

6) Recognize the students who have made progress in our programs and make them feel important. Hillary Rodham Clinton said, "It takes an entire village to raise a child." Well, we need to as a community help our children be all they can be, and leading by example is the best way we can show our children they are important and deserve our time.

7) Be willing to learn from our past mistakes and move forward.

8) Have the schools/community/churches involved and help the program succeed, by making referrals to make sure we don't allow any children in need to slip through the cracks.

With the programs in place that we so desperately need, I pray that the community of Sunnyside knows that there is a solution to the gang violence. We just have to be able to accept that we don't have to reinvent the wheel. There are those who have the knowledge and the passion to help our young people. The question is, will the community allow or support the programs that are needed to help all involved. Time will tell.

I hope and pray that we make the correct choice. The lives of our children depend on it.

/s/ Michelle Gonzalez, former intervention specialist at Sunnyside High School

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