Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Gangs in Lompoc -- Finding Solutions

My friend Joyce Howerton, a former mayor of Lompoc and a community activist, has put together a series of forums dealing with the issue of gangs in Lompoc. Lompoc is a relatively small town (50,000), off the main highway, but home to an Air Force base and a complex of federal prisons. It has a small town feel, conservative in many ways, and yet gangs are a presence here.
As we began our evening together we watched the Drama Kings, a group of young men incarcerated at the Los Prieto's Boys Camp, a juvenile detention facility tell their story and their hopes of a new life. I do pray for them, that this will be a turning point. Theirs is a story told well, a story that is heart breaking, and a story that holds out hope!

So, how to deal with the issue? That's a good question. Law enforcement has a role, but it's not sufficient. Schools -- yes -- and schools willing to provide a variety of programs that will inspire young people to stay in school, attend to their studies, and do what is right. It is a community issue that requires community solutions. That there were 150 or more people gathered on a nice June evening in a school cafeteria to listen to fellow citizens share ideas and solutions and ask questions was great.

I had the privilege of participating in the event -- I got to lead the discussion. I was pleased that people stuck to the topic and brought ideas and challenged the city (as a government entity and as a community itself) to raise money and spend it in ways that will bring our young people together for the common good. We heard last night from former gang members and from people who had been in prison, from parents of gang members, all hoping to find ways of changing the status quo. That the mayor wasn't there, that the school superintendent and the high school principles weren't there, that few clergy were there, is disappointing.

But those who came will be the pillars. I hope my own congregation can and will be, despite our smallness of size, a part of the solution.

You can read the full story in a Lompoc Record article by clicking here.

1 comment:

Mike L. said...

I don't live in a big city so it is hard to relate to this, but I do think this is a core issue in our society. The point is that we as a society don't do a good job dealing with the violence that results from lack of education and poverty. We can't try to solve this in Iraq when we are not doing a good job here in the U.S. It seems to me like it is the same problem. When there is economic injustice and a lack of quality services and education, then violence always follows.

I think this will continue around the globe until we realize that it is the responsiblity of all of us that prosper as a result of our economic systems to be proactive about ending injustice in all places before the violence starts. We should use our own inner cities and other high gang-membership areas as a prototype for solving this problem around the globe. The answer is NOT to beat down violence with more violence. The answer is to provide clear alternative ways of living that are within reach for these people..