Monterey County

City leaders: Stopping violence starts at home

New call to end violence in Salinas

SALINAS, Calif. - UPDATE 8/11/2016 6 PM: It's been a violent week in Salinas as police investigate four separate shootings that have left two men dead. City leaders and community activists say enough is enough and have a message for parents: "Step up to the plate."

"We're asking you to be a parent, a disciplinarian, not a best friend but a disciplinarian and hold your child accountable," said Salinas city council member Tony Barrera.

Barrera said those who are responsible for the city's violence are someone's son or daughter. As heart wrenching as it may be, parents need to turn them into police.

There have been 23 homicides in Salinas this year, already outpacing last year's homicide rate. Two homicides happened this week alone. According to information provided on the Salinas Police Department's website, more than a dozen victims were under the age of 25.

Thursday's gathering was just two blocks away from where Hugo Martin Torres was found shot in Gonzales Alley off of Gabilan Street. Torres later died from his injuries.

Salinas Mayor Joe Gunter said the problem isn't confined to one neighborhood and affects the entire community. He believes many may not recognize that.

"We've had people call about sidewalks. They don't call and complain about murders," Gunter said. "And that's kind of tragic when you look at the big picture."

City leaders said people need to start paying attention to their kids early on and get to them before gangs do. They said it's okay to ask for help from the city, police or other local organizations. Parents need to speak to their children, because police can't arrest their way out of the problem.

"The police will never ever solve this problem," Salinas Police Chief Kelly McMillin said. "If people are looking to law enforcement to solve the violence problem, you're looking in the wrong place."

Brian Contreras, the executive director of the Second Chance Youth Program, said there also has to be an effort to reach out to the youth who have already joined gangs. His organization used to run street outreach programs and make contact with gang members. He said it was a success, with retaliatory violence going down, though the gang life may be hard to shed.

McMillin said one of the recent homicide victims was a former gang member. He tried leaving that past behind. He was enrolled in a program for at-risk youth and was working to support his family when he was killed.

"When these young men start down this path and become known to the community as gang members, even if they leave it, that lifestyle won't let them leave," McMillin said. "That lifestyle will follow them. And because of that, it's so important that we never let kids get into that lifestyle in the first place, because it's so hard to get out of."

Ramon Naranjo, a father of four, said he agreed that stopping violence starts at home. But he also feels kids could be vulnerable at school, where they pick up bad habits from classmates.

"We want to teach them differently," Naranjo said. "We want to teach them how to respect others, how to behave, how to be around other people and so, that's one of the reasons why we home school our children."

Naranjo and city leaders are hoping more people will lead by example, to make the community safer.

"We grow crops in Salinas, right? We have to grow a crop of kids in Salinas that doesn't ever think it is OK to pick up a gun, that doesn't ever think violence is the solution," McMillin said.

ORIGINAL POST: Salinas city leaders are calling for the community and parents become more involved in stopping violence in the city.

Elected leaders and representatives from community and faith-based groups met with reporters Thursday just blocks from where a man was shot and killed Monday in the city's 22nd homicide of 2016.

The group said city-run programs can only be effective when the anti-violence message is taught at home.

KION's Mariana Hicks has our story tonight at 5 and 6 p.m..


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