Monterey County

Night walks for peace pay off in Salinas' most dangerous neighborhoods

Volunteers hold walks through Salinas neighborhoods

SALINAS, Calif. - There's big concern for public safety in Salinas especially with federal eyes here this week.  NewsChannel 5 went with some local volunteers who go to the areas hardest hit by gangs and gain the community's trust to work for peace. 

Several groups are leading night walks in Salinas neighborhoods with the highest crime.  It's a coordinated effort through the city's focus to improve community safety and reduce violence.  When volunteers enter neighborhoods like Acosta Plaza, they think the tension starts to melt away.

"Be there to listen to any concerns any you know questions that the community might have and even to ask questions, you know, how do you feel in your neighborhood?  Do you feel safe?" said 2nd Chance volunteer Nick Langarica.

Volunteers come from all walks of life, some from faith-based groups and some with a troubled past themselves.  Efforts to connect with people living in the shadows violence are focused in four areas:  Acosta Plaza, Closter Park, Hebbron Heights and Del Monte Avenue.  Night walkers said over the past couple of years, they've seen more kids come out and play because they feel safe.

"Just to show them that there are people other than the ones that live there, that care, they're coming from the outside, they're neutral.  But you're there to let them know we're here to help," Langarica said.

School days are also a major focus for volunteers.  After a couple of shootings behind Alisal High School, volunteers said they committed themselves to visiting the school's back gate every morning and afternoon, to talk with kids about staying away from violence.

"Most of our teams now people are more open to talk to us.  We have mothers that will actually come out and talk to us and let us know what's going on in the neighborhood," Langarica said.

All conversations are confidential.  Monday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday they lend an ear to those who live amongst the flashing lights and sound of sirens on a regular basis, in hopes of making a difference in their lives.

Salinas is part of a national program -- along with nine other cities -- aimed at reducing violence.  These walks are a part of that effort.

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