LANCASTER – The Community Action League held a press conference at the Antelope Valley Courthouse Thursday to recruit local participation in the fight against violence.
TCAL co-founder V. Jesse Smith told the handful of people gathered outside the courthouse that members of the community must add to the solutions to stop senseless acts of violence in the Antelope Valley.
“A young man, striving to become a musician, was killed in his garage because of reckless shooting – unnecessarily. Palmdale High School vandalized – unnecessarily,” Smith said. “We got to decide at this point to take a stand. We rise up when racism is strong in this community, so we must also rise up when violence rears its ugly head in this community.”
Though recently published crime statistics for the city of Palmdale show the crime rate to be at its lowest in the past 20 years, some in the community remain vocal regarding the visibility of violence throughout neighborhoods.
“This right here is a travesty,” league co-founder Pharaoh Mitchell said at the press conference. “This senseless violence that is going on in our community should not be going on. We have to be here to protect our community, and unnecessary crimes like this should not be going on.”
Although Lancaster officials introduced an Administration Citation Program on Tuesday to counter what is seen as an increasing criminal impact on local businesses and residents, The Community Action League proposed a different approach to take their community back from violent offenders.
TCAL members outlined a few strategies and programs that would require participation from residents and stakeholders to combat local violence, such as forming a Community Violence Intervention and Prevention Committee to address the needs of families impacted by violence.
“Another one would be to call upon the municipalities, both Lancaster as well as Palmdale, and most importantly our county officials, to begin to identify possible resources to create a Violence Reduction Department in both municipalities that will partner with local CBOs (community based organizations) so we can begin to strategize to reduce violence in our communities,” Ansar “Stan” Muhammad announced.
The league stated in their press release that the proposed Violence Reduction Department would be similar to the Los Angeles-based model of the Gang Reduction Youth Development Department, while suggesting the organization would be funded by Palmdale and Lancaster.
Members of the league also recognized the importance of working with law enforcement in the ongoing effort to make neighborhoods safer.
“We can’t just hope that law enforcement will take care of this problem. This is not just a law enforcement problem – this is a community problem,” Mitchell said. “If you’re not reporting these crimes, you’re just as guilty as the person committing these crimes. Do not condone any violence in any form in our community.”
Emmett Murrell, executive director of Murrell’s Farm and Boys Home, said the greatest strategy for reducing violence is to embrace the community’s future through its next generation of leaders.
“I think it’s paramount that we pull together the young men who can have a positive impact on the maturation of the youngsters as they begin to develop and become stakeholders of the community where they have been too long without,” said Murrell. “We’re hoping as a result of this, we’re setting up opportunities for them not only to further their education but to get the kind of skills that are going to be needed.”
TCAL is hosting an upcoming town hall meeting in Palmdale to provide more details about their goals and programs, while seeking input from the public on how to prevent crime in the community.
The town hall will take place at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 4 at the Larry Chimbole Cultural Center, 38350 Sierra Highway in Palmdale.