Salinas has notoriously been known as the youth murderer capital of California for more than a decade. Fortunately, nowadays, there are more local interventions to mitigate the gang violence implemented by the local NGOs, communities and the Mayor. Still, unfortunately, the process remains an uphill battle.
During the panel discussion with the Mayor, NGO partners, and the Director of CASP today, I learnt that the biggest challenge for the prevention work is the sustainability of the funding that they can use for implementing youth projects. Oftentimes, they have to suspend the ongoing projects because of the budget cut. In other words, they will have to start the projects all over again from time to time, which makes it difficult to break the gang cycle thoroughly. More importantly, the second major reason that deters their prevention work is that the Salina gang culture is distinctive than other gangs across the country. For instance, the dropouts will be viewed as dishonored or betrayal who will then be killed by other gang members. (Gang members in Chicago will respect the dropouts who work for a better job.)
Overall, I believe that the work carried out so far by the CASP and local community is effective to alleviate the gang violence. Their work does not only primarily focus on prevention, but also intervention, suppression and re-entry. Particularly, I realize that they put a lot of efforts in helping the ex-gang member to lead a normal life. This is crucially important and far-reaching because as I have learnt in the Salina Valley Prison visit from the inmates that they want to be welcomed by other community members, they want to feel trusted, and they want to feel supported.