by Wendy Ngo

Due to gang related violence in our community, many young lives have died prematurely.  Families have lost innocent friends and family who have no reason to die besides being at the wrong place at the wrong time. A lot of people become involved in gangs at a young age. Joining conflicts between people over colors, the name of their gang, or where they live.  Youth believe that gangs will bring them love, power, protection, or money. Maybe even just an older brother or father like figure they can go to. The reality of it is that these people don’t really know what they’re getting into. They’re risking their lives, their futures, and the lives of innocent people. Sometimes it’s the lives of people they love.

In Sacramento, July 4th, 2012, a 3-year-old boy was riding in the back of his father’s car when gunshots were fired at their vehicle. With fireworks being let off, this was the perfect time to mask the sounds of explosive, loud bullets. Over a dozen gunshots were fired and unfortunately the child was hit multiple times. The father rushed over to the hospital, yet his son was later pronounced dead. The mother of the child can no longer remember July 4th as Independence Day. The day that we blast off tons of fireworks for the kids to enjoy. It will be the day her son was lost in a violent gang war.

This incident happened only a few miles away from where I live. I wish more people chose to believe in better things. There would be less crime in our communities. I believe that we have the ability to make a change. By reaching out to the youth, we can prevent gang association at an earlier age. Teaching them the dangers and deaths that comes with being a part of a gang.

Since 2006, gang related incidents have risen 55%. We currently have about 5,000 gang members in the Sacramento region. Since there have been many budget cuts in the criminal justice systems, it is very important that the community does more to stop the violence related to gang affiliations. We need our streets to be as safe as possible.

There is an amazing program in Sacramento called G.R.E.A.T (Gang Resistance Education and Training.) Luckily, I got to be a part of this program when I was in middle school. The program was taught by our school officer. He showed us how to detect danger and how to get out of various situations. G.R.E.A.T gave us the opportunity to do community service. I chose to help fix up our school quad. Team members and I worked hard to weed, plow and plant seeds to re-grow grass. I am now a part of Youth Voice. It is another great program in Sacramento that offers resources that gives us good things to do. They encourage us to reach out other youth and involve ourselves in community events. This keeps us off the streets and contributes to our community. Youth need positive role models to help guide them through the seemingly hopeless situations they often find themselves in. Trouble uses temptation to lure us in, so we need to stay busy. Doing things we love and enjoy to keep us away from trouble.