Federal government in Salinas to help with youth violence prevention

SALINAS, Calif. - Youth violence in Salinas was front and center Tuesday as a federal delegation visited the city for a two-day trip specifically to look at what the city has done right and what it could improve on.

"I didn't think it would happen to me so it could happen to anyone," a mother who didn't want be identified, said in disbelief. Her 23-year-old son was shot and killed in Chinatown over the weekend. His sister, who also didn’t want to be named, is heartbroken.

"I feel like it's a bad dream and we're going to wake up from it and he is going to be there," she said.

The city of Salinas is hoping this visit from Washington will bring some new ideas and funding to help Salinas prevent youth violence.

"It's my job to come here and meet the key stakeholders and ask them what they need from us," said Ricco Hall, a state program manager with the U.S. government.

This is the fourth visit to Salinas for the federal delegation. Over the last two years, there are have been 71 homicides in Salinas but according to the city over the last 12 years overall and youth violence has been going down.

"In 2015 we had a 15-year low despite the rise in homicides so our focus on the youth violence has started to work," said Jose Arreola, community safety administrator with the city of Salinas.

One of the programs that both the city and the feds said is working is the bimonthly Community Alliance for Safety and Peace meeting where members of the public are invited to voice concerns with city leaders.

“In times of scarce resources align and we partner together to have a bigger impact," said Arreola.

Even though youth violence is going down young people are still being killed on the streets of Salinas. In February, a 16-year-old was shot-dead on Mae Street. In April, another 16-year old was killed on Garner Ave. Two days later it was a 17-year-old on Acosta Plaza and just last month a 17-year -old on C Street.

The city admits youth violence has been a problem for quite some time but officials said it is one that they need to solve on their own.

"The Department of Justice has very little control over that,” Arreola. “Our City Council funding, police recruitment, people who want to be police all of that plays into that."

Family members of those killed on the streets often say they want to see more police officers but the mother we spoke with Tuesday said she understands that decreasing the homicide rate is a community wide effort.

She also said she is staying strong because of her faith.

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