Former gang members plea to stop the violence

Former gang members plea to stop the violence
August 27, 2012 10:09:50 PM PDT
Former gang members reached out to the young people of San Jose with an appeal to stop the violence. Few people understand the scope and depth of the gang problem in San Jose than those who have been there.

The mayor, police chief, and others will gather to honor the victims of recent homicides, but earlier Monday there was a different crowd addressing the issue.

The group shouted, "What does the South Side need? Jesus. Who does a gang member need? Jesus."

The walking rally in San Jose is intended to get the attention of gang members and some of those delivering the message used to wear their own colors.

Pastor Jorge Gonzales was in a gang on the streets of San Jose for more than a decade. He said, "I was looking for love. I was looking to belong in some place somewhere and the gangs were there for me."

The congregation at Victory Outreach San Jose is unique. Many are former gang members who know firsthand the lifestyle and mindset.

"If you were messing with our neighborhood we were going to hurt you. Didn't matter what the cost was. Going to jail was a second home for me," said Dominic Rios, a former gang member.

Rios joined nearly two dozen other people Monday who want to help stop the vicious cycle of violence gripping the city.

"It's sad because kids at 15, 16 years old are getting shot over a color," said Trisha Hernandez, a march participant.

San Jose police say of the 33 homicides so far this year, 13 are gang related. The city has activated a crisis response strategy to address the surge in crime. As police increase patrols, community and faith based organizations are hitting the streets as well. Victory Outreach Senior Pastor Robert Maes used to be in a gang. He showed us a photo that was taken of him at 19.

"It's very easy for use to go into drug or gang infested area and feel right at home and ministering to them. We are not really intimidated by the backgrounds, the different lifestyles out there, because many of us came from that," said Maes.

The congregation of Victory Outreach is a testament to what is possible. Two pastors-one a former Norteno and one a former Sureno are standing side by side, preaching the same message.

"We have this passion to reach out to these young men and even the hard core gang members to show them that there is a different way of life. You don't have to end up in prison, you don't have to end up killed," said Gonzales.

The silver lining is after eight homicides in 11 days, it was a homicide-free event. The last homicide occurred on Thursday.


Load Comments