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Anti-Violence Vigil Looks to Gang-Suppression Program

Operation Ceasefire combines the efforts of police, prosecutors, public health and social services to target gang violence hotspots. Credit: Rich Legg/iStock.
Operation Ceasefire combines the efforts of police, prosecutors, public health and social services to target gang violence hotspots. Credit: Rich Legg/iStock.
August 21, 2015

The community of San Bernardino came together Thursday night for a vigil to honor 4-year-old Daniel Munoz, who was shot to death in his aunt's front yard in late July, the victim of random violence.

The San Bernardino Police Department is looking to make a difference by establishing a program called Operation Ceasefire, which combines heavy enforcement with preventive social services. Rally organizer Sergio Luna with Inland Congregations United for Change said the city needs to do more even as it emerges from bankruptcy.

"The key components to keep people out of the cycle of violence are still missing," she said. "We need job training, housing and opportunities for youth."

Homicides in San Bernardino skyrocketed in recent years but are down dramatically so far in 2015 - something the police department credits to better community outreach.

If Operation Ceasefire is implemented, said police Lt. Rich Lawhead, it would train recent parolees to intervene after a shooting and use their street cred to calm the situation.

"They communicate: 'Hey, you know, don't go out and retaliate on this. Let the police do their job'," he said. "We need to get some of our youngsters to find a different way to settle their arguments than with a gun."

Michael Friedrich, a communications specialist for the National Network for Safe Communities at John Jay College, said the program focuses on the tiny percentage of residents who commit most of the violent crimes.

"It gives this active population a targeted message: We care about you. You are part of our community but the violence has to stop. The next group that drops a body is going to face consequences," he said.

Operation Ceasefire has successfully reduced violence in dozens of cities across the country including Boston and Chicago. California cities participating include Los Angeles, Oakland, Fresno, Long Beach, and most notably Stockton, which saw a 43 percent drop in homicides between 1998 and 2001.

Suzanne Potter, Public News Service - CA