PALMDALE – From around-the-clock drug sales to gang-related stabbings and shootings, the low-income apartment complexes along 11th Street East, near Avenue Q, are known hotbeds for criminal activity.
That may soon change.
A coalition of local community leaders held a press conference Friday, Aug. 8 to announce a comprehensive plan to reduce gang violence and drug sales in the neighborhood.
“Our goal here is to create a mission, a movement in this area to empower our people,” said Pharaoh Mitchell, president of The Community Action League.
The group targeted the area after receiving complaints from Regina Gonzaga, owner of the Sonoma Apartment Homes at 38551 11th Street East (where a gang informant was stabbed to death in late 2012).
“There’s a lot of gangs and drug activities on this street,” Gonzaga said. “We sent emails to the cops, we even sent a letter to the mayor… we still did not get any help.”
The initiative to clean up the area is spearheaded by the local chapter of the Nation of Islam and the Antelope Valley H.E.L.P.E.R. (Help Establish Learning, Peace, Economics and Righteousness) Foundation, according to Ansar “Stan” Muhammad, who heads up both groups.
“If we get the proper support from the city [of Palmdale], we can implement the program in 90 days,” Muhammad said. “It’s called a Gang Reduction Youth Development Zone or GRYD, where we identify a one-mile radius around this property and implement a gang reduction youth development strategy.”
Asked to list three main objectives of GRYD, Muhammad said: “The first is outreach to those individuals who are hardcore [gang members] to let them know our intentions and to find out, what can we do to help them change?”
Next, the group will identify the “wannabes” and get those individuals into a life skills course, which will be offered as part of GRYD, Muhammad said.
“The third [objective] is to create a violence-free, drug-free zone using individuals who we have hired,” Muhammad said, adding that the group has staff members working to provide “safe passage and community intervention services” for residents at the complex.
“We’re not over here policing, we’re over here connecting,” Muhammad said.
The Sonoma Apartment Homes has new onsite management.
Fellow Nation of Islam members, Larry Muhammad and his wife, Kimberly, will work to improve quality of life for tenants and will help to implement the GRYD initiative.
“You have to give these young men and young women opportunity,” Larry Muhammad said.
“Locking them up is not going to solve the problem; that’s definitely the last thing we want to happen to the young men in our community” Kimberly Muhammad said. “If we give them something else to do, they do something better.”
The GRYD initiative will be implemented at the Sonoma Apartment Homes and seven other low-income apartment complexes in the immediate area, Stan Muhammad said.
“We want peace, drug-free, gang-free… people being able to go outside, bring the children outside, just live,” he said, in describing the end result of the program.
To learn how you can get involved in this grassroots effort, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.