SALINAS, Calif. - With 23 homicides so far this year and more than a dozen victims under the age of 25, Salinas faces the harsh reality of being known as one of the deadliest places for youth, according to the Violence Policy Center.
"It's sad to think that I can't walk outside after 11 o'clock because something that might happen, a shooting that might happen, said Salinas resident Jarred Pelayo.
To tackle the crime crisis and keep city leaders accountable, the Salinas Police Officers Association said it's creating a Political Action Committee.
"We care about your neighborhood and your community and we want to see things get better," said Gabriel Carvey with the Salinas Police Officers Association.
"That's never going to stop until the root causes are addressed," said Shi Cota of Salinas.
Officers plan to interview incumbents and candidates running for city seats about their plans to address public safety. The POA plans to back candidates with the best plan through financial support and even plans to campaign.
"While they're trying to get elected public safety is always the number one priority, that's what they say," said Jim Knowlton with the Salinas Police Officers Association. "Once they're elected it's incredible how quickly they get an incredible case of amnesia and they forget about that."
The POA said current city councilors have sat on the sidelines instead of getting in the game when it comes to creating efficient plans to decrease the cities tragic crime rates.
"We asked them 37 days ago for a plan, silence, they haven't addressed it," said Knowlton. "We want action now."
As far as creating a new comprehensive public safety plan, the city said, "Is it really the council's job to tell policemen how to be policemen?" said Salinas Mayor Joe Gunter. "In the public safety we have a chief of police, we have commanders and deputy chiefs. That is really the police's job. We provide them with the funding. We provide them with the positive direction and we've done that."
Gunter said the city is open to meeting with the POA. Right now they are in the process of hiring and recruiting more officers and moving ahead with programs and efforts to cut down on violence.
"Juvenile violence is down, the number of juveniles involved in homicides is down," said Gunter.
For now, the POA said it has not formally endorsed anyone yet.
ORIGINAL STORY: As the November election approaches, the Salinas Police Officers Association won't be standing on the sidelines.
The organization, which represents rank and file police officers in the city, says it is forming a political action committee to support candidates for mayor and city council.
Tonight at 5 and 6, KION's Maya Holmes will examine the issues behind the move and tell us what the group hopes to accomplish.