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Youth violence forum draws large crowd

Sacramento resident Kevin Carter participates in the community forum on youth violence and gangs.

In the view of Sacramento community activist Kathy Jenkins, stronger parenting of youth is key to reducing gang violence. At a forum in Oak Park on youth and gang-related violence, Jenkins told a crowd of about 150 Sacramento residents, city staffers and police officers that assertive parents should influence the lives of young people.

“This is called parenting, this is not policing,” Jenkins said.

“If we could parent, and if we can raise,” she added, “and if we can encourage, and if we can take guns and give books, if we can give dolls instead of pimping … If we could do these things, we could put (the police) out of work. I would rather see them writing parking tickets.”

Jenkins was one of many speakers at the forum, organized by Mayor Kevin Johnson’s office. Johnson had planned to attend the Oak Park event, said his special assistant, R.E. Graswich. But he canceled in order to accept an invitation from the White House to spend time on Wednesday with President Barack Obama, according to Johnson’s press office.

Police Chief Rick Braziel, Sacramento County Sheriff Scott Jones and Sacramento County District Attorney Jan Scully were among others who made remarks at the forum. Residents also participated in the forum by brainstorming ways to halt youth violence in the Sacramento area.

Braziel explained the police department’s Operation Ceasefire program, in which officers meet with youth involved with violence, he said. “We bring them in and give them alternatives,” Braziel said.

The department and local support service programs provide services to the youth so they can stop a violent lifestyle, Braziel said. Other partners in the program include the U.S. Attorney’s office and the District Attorney’s office, he said.

Jones emphasized prevention of gang violence and said it was part of his gang strategy. “What’s been long overdue is the prevention side,” he said.

One of the attendees, Malcolm Stone, 63, told The Sacramento Press that he recently moved to south Sacramento from Riverside County. He said he had earlier thought that Sacramento was somewhat “sleepy.” He and his wife are “shocked about all the violent crime in the news” in Sacramento, he said.

Assistant City Manager Cassandra Jennings wrapped up the event, telling the attendees that city leaders plan to create an action plan to address youth violence. She said focus groups will be organized in March, and another community forum will be held in April. In June, the city hopes to have an outline of a strategy, she said.

Kathleen Haley is a staff reporter for The Sacramento Press.

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