Fresno Street Saints

August 14, 2008 8:53:12 PM PDT
Fresno police say most victims in gang-related shootings are under the age of 25. For that reason, children in gang-infested communities fear growing up. But police and faith-based organizations are working hand in hand to combat both the myths and the reality of the gang life.One ten year old girl who lives in west Fresno describes police chasing a man through her yard. She says, "When I saw him jump her fence we all ran inside. The cops were chasing him and he threw the gun inside our house. Another 10-year old girl says she is afraid something might happen to her. She says the incident with the man running through the yard was scary. She says, "A lot of kids were crying."

Police Chief Jerry Dyer says the reality is many kids in gang infested neighborhoods won't grow old. Dyer says, "They know the lifestyle they're in ... that fast-paced lifestyle... the danger which they encounter all the time ... the drive-by shootings ... the likelihood of them surviving into their 30's and 40's may not be there."

Chief Dyer says his department is doing its part to rid the streets of gang members. Pastors, like Lee Pointer, are presenting an alternative lifestyle. Pastor Lee Pointer of the Fresno Street Saints says, "We bring hope into their lives by speaking differently than what they're used to hearing."

Lee Pointer is one of seven pastors who make up Fresno Streets Saints in southwest Fresno. He connects with children and teens one on one to give them hope beyond the gangs.

He says, "If you see hope, if you see another avenue, go down it. If they don't see it, it's a hopeless despairing situation at that time."

Action News spoke with some young women, also from West Fresno. They have chosen hope over despair. Even though they've known young people who have died or joined gangs, they look forward to growing old. 16-year old Kylelashay Draper says, "I've felt the pressure ... but you know I try to maintain. I have a future and I want that future so I try to stay out of it as much as possible."

Kylelashay and her sister, Nardeasha, say positive adults have kept them out of trouble and away from gangs. Pastor Pointer says the Street Saints are making a difference on the Westside of Fresno, but more adults could provide even more hope.

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