Community leaders blame budget cuts for rise in Mission violence

Two San Francisco supervisors and several community leaders gathered for an emergency meeting March 3 in response to a recent increase in gang violence in the Mission District.

In the five days between Feb. 26 and the March 3 meeting, there was a gang-related stabbing and three shootings in the neighborhood, leaving one dead, several injured and a community desperately seeking to stop further violence.

“It’s just sad that people lose their lives over it,” said Jessica Cawaring, a Mission resident who lives two blocks from the scene of the fatal shooting on 17th and Mission streets. The shooting happened in the early morning hours of Feb. 26.

Growing up in a neighborhood where childhood friends eventually lead a gang lifestyle, many residents have become desensitized to the violence, said Cawaring, 24, an SF State alumnus.

At the meeting, Mission District Supervisor David Campos, along with Supervisor John Avalos, representatives of the Mayor’s Office and Mission Peace Collaborative discussed the correlation between lack of funding for programs and services in the low-income neighborhood and the recent rise of violence.

Valerie Tulier, director of Mission Beacon, an after-school program at Everett Middle School, said she believes there’s a connection because cutting funds for programs like the Mayor’s Youth Employment and Education Program results in less extra-curricular activities.

“Jobs are important,” said Tulier. “They’re just thinking of year-to-year funding, not long-term funding and its long-term effects.”

Many attendants of the meeting also criticized the current gang injunction in effect in the neighborhood.

The injunction limits the movements of alleged gang members named in the District Attorney’s filing.  It was put in place in 2007 against the Nortenos and four other alleged gangs.

“We know they don’t work,” said Tulier who has worked with Mission youth for more than 20 years.

Alleged Nortenos named in the injunction are forbidden to set foot along 24th and Mission Streets, but, Tulier said, the injunction only relocates the individual to a different region of the city rather than stopping their gang activity.

Similarly, Cawaring said injunctions do not resolve the violence on the streets.

“Even if you don’t see that many gang members on the streets, it doesn’t mean they’re not there,” she said.

Airto Morales, office coordinator for Project Rebound at SF State, said teens have been manipulated for years to join gangs.

“A lot of them today are involved in drugs,” said Morales, who also volunteers at Mission Beacon. “The outcome that they’re traveling with is negative, nothing positive. Youth should be educated on what’s really going on with the warfare. Not educate them in a university, but in the community.”

Michael Brown, a volunteer with Precita Eyes, a mural arts center in the neighborhood, said there is a solution to ending the violence in the Mission.

“The government can stop it with more jobs and programs or activities for our community’s youth,” said Brown.

Cawaring, however, said resolving the issue is more complex than people think.

“It’s just hard to break the cycle,” Cawaring said. “And with no one’s help, it makes it even harder.”

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