Fresno Police roll out new gang prevention PSAs

FRESNO, Calif.

Fresno police said kids that young are already talking about or watching their friends get involved in gang activity. And now a group of local teenagers is pulling from its own violent experiences to keep the youth safe.

The voices of some of the youngest and most impressionable kids in Fresno are being used in a push to protect their peers from violent crime scenes.

"I definitely know what it feels like to be that old and go through the same thing," said 18-year-old Sirena Sosa, who knows the gang lifestyle too well. Her dad, former gang member, was shot in 2010 and nearly died; all this while Sirena was helping to develop the new anti-gang PSA's.

"I remember going in and telling them… I couldn't even handle it," Sosa said. "I'm trying to explain to them what it feels like and it was so hard for me."

The violent past continues. Sirena's uncle and another man were shot in a gang-related attempted murder in Visalia in 2010.

The PSA effort is being funded with grants and organized with help from the Center for Multicultural Cooperation. "We compete with gangs every day to recruit young people into our programs," Amy Huerta with the CMC said.

Police Chief Jerry Dyer said the department alone cannot stop Fresno's gang problems. "We have to do more," Dyer said. "It's not enough to simply disrupt, displace and dismantle gangs in our community. We have to do more in terms of intervention and more in terms of prevention."

Just this week there were several gang-related shootings, including a Central Fresno murder stemming from a Super Bowl party.

Dyer said in 2011 there were 200 gang-related shootings with 19 of those being deadly. Last year it was worse with 205 gang shootings and 28 murders.

Sirena remembers kids on her elementary school grounds talking about gangs. She hopes her work puts a stop to it. "I know exactly what it's like to grow up in that environment," Sosa said.

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