Santa Barbara- S County

Police and Anti-Gang Advocates Working to End Violence

SANTA MARIA, Calif. - The Santa Maria police department is working to decrease the city's gang violence through several different avenues.

Sergeant Eligio Lara of the Santa Maria Police department said the police department is understaffed by about 20 people. They'd like to recruit more officers to several of its departments including the ‘Gang Suppression Team.'

The department is also working on a documentary.  Sgt. Lara said "It's to kind of show them (children) that the gang subculture they'd join is not as unique as they might think. There are a lot of consequences. You may end up going to prison, jail, or juvenile hall."

Edwin Weaver, executive director of ‘Fighting Back Santa Maria Valley,' said, "Our main goal is to develop resiliency against substance abuse. Reduce violence in our community and strengthen families."

The advocacy group is working to reduce gang violence. Weaver said the documentary will have first hand accounts from former gang members. Weaver said, "They're living lives of regret now as adults. Kids romanticize gangs. We want to get the message out that yes it looks exciting now, but this is what it looks like when you're an adult you will be abandoned by your gang, they won't care. We want to make sure kids know them."

On Thursday evening, police responded to a shooting. Santa Maria police are investigating it as a possible gang related violence.

"I've worked as a gang detective before and it seems to go up and down. There is a time when it's quiet and there is a time when they start acting up again," Sgt. Lara said.

The main purpose of the documentary will be to reach out to youth and their families and highlight the consequences of joining a gang

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