Livingston taking action against gang violence

February 2, 2013 12:47:30 AM PST
One small city in Merced County is trying to fight back against an increase in gang violence.

Livingston police found two teenagers with gunshot wounds last February. One of them died at the hospital, marking the city's first homicide in nearly three years. Then in October, a 26 year old man was also shot to death.

Livingston police Chief Ruben Chavez said, "since I've been here, the last almost year now, we've had 5 gang related shootings, we've had at least one homicide that was gang-related."

Chief Ruben Chavez came from the San Jose Police Department, where those numbers would seem low. But in this small community, the crimes have raised concern.

Jessica De La Rosa of Livingston said "I've been hearing stories and hearing the sirens and everything so lately it has been a big part."

That's why the city is now planning a gang prevention summit and promoting it on this marquee in the heart of town. Former gang members will speak to parents about what to watch out for, and ways to keep their kids on the right path.

"We have a lot of folks that live here that might be dual working parents families, single parent families, a lot of times there might be certain characteristics the youth might be displaying that they're not aware of," La Rosa said.

Officials are also working to give teenagers positive alternatives. The city launched a police explorers program last year, which now has dozens of young volunteers who do community service and act as mentors.

Livingston City Manager Jose Antonio Ramirez said, "It requires a multi-prong approach in order to address gang issues."

La Rosa says she's thankful the city is taking steps to make the streets safer -- and hopes the upcoming summit will have an impact.

"I'm glad they're actually paying attention to us, and doing something about it rather than letting it slide," La Rosa said.

The gang prevention summit will take place on Saturday, Feb. 16, from 9 a.m. to Noon at the City Council Chambers in Livingston.


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