Praying for peace in Reedley

September 19, 2010 12:00:00 AM PDT
Sunday night, dozens of people in one Reedley neighborhood, marched up and down the streets praying for peace.

Last Saturday, a teenager was stabbed in the area. The next day, someone was shot and killed. And with the Reedley Police Department short on resources, neighbors say they want to help by uniting together. "We are one in the lord"

Frustrated by a recent string of violent crimes in this Reedley neighborhood, more than a hundred residents took their concerns and prayers to the streets Sunday night.

"We need to pray for our young people. We're losing our young kids. We're losing them. They're either dying or going to jail."

A candlelight vigil followed Sunday's prayer walk. It comes just one week after someone was shot and killed in the area.

Neighbors say over the past three years there have been six homicides -- many of them gang related.

Resident Tonette White says, "I'm really concerned about the young people and the youth. We need to take back these streets."

That sentiment comes at a time when the city needs it most. Reedley Police Chief Steve Wright, who participated in the prayer walk, admits his department is stretched thin. The department of 34 has 9 additional vacancies. He says the community's input and participation is crucial for change. "The police can never do it alone, no matter how many police officers they have. It just becomes much more apparent when your staffing levels and the police officers available are so low; it just becomes more apparent that it takes a lot more people in the community to come forward."

Sunday's prayer walk is just the start. Neighbors have plans underway to revive the area's neighborhood watch program. They say their goal is not to punish would-be criminals, but rather show them a better way.

Resident Miriam Cardenas says, "I think that there has been some significant reason for fear, but if we stay paralyzed because of the fear, then we won't grow as a community. We have so many amazing opportunities to create peace within our neighborhood, so this was just one of those opportunities."

Residents who organized tonight's prayer walk say they plan to have one every third Sunday of the month at Camacho Park in Reedley.

Meanwhile, city officials tell me they have applied for a grant that could help fund more police officers.


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