PALMDALE – About 40 residents gathered at the Larry Chimbole Cultural Center Saturday to discuss crime and public safety in the Antelope Valley.
“This is a chance for community leaders and community members to come together to get a better understanding of what we need to do to prevent crime in our community,” said organizer Pharaoh Mitchell.
Panelists at the Crime Prevention and Intervention Conference included Darren Parker, Chairman of the Antelope Valley Human Relations Commission; Abdul Majeed Askia, community activist and public speaker; Veronica Fields, organizer of the recent “Hoodie March for Solidarity; Cynthia Beverly, CEO of the “One Way Up” youth organization; Stan Muhammad, local director for the Nation of Islam; Xavier Flores, project director for Pueblo Y Salud; and Dr. Miguel Coronado and Jackie Contreras, representatives from the League of United Latin American Citizens.
“Crime prevention starts in the home. You do that by hugging, disciplining and paying attention to your kids,” said Dr. Coronado. “If you don’t pay attention to your kids, our community pays the price.”
“So many of the youth, unfortunately, are automatically cast into the category of being enemies,” said Askia, adding that youths are often labeled as being dangerous and wild, based on appearance alone.
Fields, the youngest member on the panel, said she was hoping to establish programs that would bridge the gap between the young and the old, as well as the sheriff’s department and the community.
“The sheriffs have a bad reputation and that’s not right for our community,” said Fields. “We should have more programs that show that the sheriffs don’t just pick on people and kill people for no reason… I think if we bridge the gap between the sheriffs and the community then it will be a lot safer in our community.”
Other panelists said there was a disproportionate number of blacks and Latinos in the prison system.
“Everybody in public office is saying ‘crime is down, crime is down’; guess what folks? People are being put in jail,” Muhammad said. “The question is: what is the percentage of those individuals who really deserve a second chance at life?”
The first audience member to speak was Diann Moskowitz, and she did not mince words in describing her frustrations with the Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher program.
“I could be the president of the sick and damn tired old white women’s task force,” Moskowitz said. She said the Section 8 program was crippling the Antelope Valley, partly because of a lawsuit that prevented the cities from funding extra investigators to root out fraud in the program. She went on to blame the NAACP for its role in the lawsuit.
“Perhaps by joining those of us who want cheats thrown out of any entitlement program, your organization could actually help the younger generations of all colors to understand that government shouldn’t be paying over and over again for illegal activities,” Moskowitz said.
Her comments prompted a response from another audience member, Andrea Cano, who urged Moskowitz to check out Tim Wise’s “The Pathology of White Privilege”.
“Because we are entitled to everything we don’t have to think about anything else but ourselves…” Cano said. “If we could acknowledge our white privilege and not play black and brown, maybe we could understand and make a change.”
Another audience member, Ace Carter, suggested effective ways for dealing with Sheriff’s deputies. You should always get a business card from deputies or get them to identify themselves and spell their names when you call the station, Carter said.
Jonathan Ervin said people were moving to the Antelope Valley because it was cheaper to live here. But because the area lacked jobs, some people were turning to crime to survive, he said.
“The real foundation of the problem that we’re seeing is jobs, and specifically, lack of manufacturing, low-skilled, high-wage jobs,” Ervin said, adding that Morton’s Manufacturing’s relocation to Lancaster would bring the kinds of jobs the community needed.
Other topics included how to deal with gang members and effective ways to reach out to disadvantaged residents.
Organizers said the conference accomplished its mission.
“The purpose was to get the dialogue going and to see how we could start to effectively make changes in our community as far as crime is concerned,” said Mitchell. “Our next step is to focus on getting more community members out to these events so that we can have the full participation of the community.”