Community unites to end violence
The recent spike in violence among Mission youth over the past two months has compelled community members to unite in hopes of promoting a safe, peaceful neighborhood environment.
According to a recent SFPD CompStat report, there have been five shootings in the Mission—four of which were fatal—over the past two months; among the victims were 20-year-old Jesus “Chuy” Solis, who was murdered Sept. 16 at the corner of 26th Street and Treat Avenue.
Valerie Tulier, director of Mission Beacon Center and a member of Mission Community Peace Collaborative, helped organize a peace march on Sept. 24 in response to the violence. The march started at 24th and Mission streets and ended with a gathering at Garfield Park—at the site of Solis’ altar.
“We wanted to get a message out to all communities that we promote and support peace. I’m very pleased that the members of the victim’s families were present as well as young people, and mothers who had lost loved ones to violence,” Tulier said.
Jamestown Media School teacher, Jeanne Hallacy, took her third-, fourth- and fifth-grade students to document the march with photography.
“The peace march was a way to document the communities’ response [to the violence] … and it became very clear that the community wants to keep the streets safe,” Hallacy said. “Media engages kids by giving them a voice and each one had different ways of responding.”
A new approach
On the Thursday following the latest fatal shooting—that of 28-year-old Jose Matias-Aguilon on Oct. 30—Supervisor David Campos held a press conference at City Hall.
Captain Robert Moser, of the Mission Police Station, released further details of the shootings and commented on the effort to expand police presence in the neighborhood.
“As a result of conducting several comprehensive anti-violence programs last week, we have made 12 arrests, seized two firearms, seized an additional weapon and made countless contacts with those prone to violence,” Moser said.
Moser confirmed that three of the five shootings appear to be gang related, and two arrests from the latest shooting have already been made, the youngest suspect according to Moser was 14.
Campos stressed the importance of collaborating with different forces to achieve comprehensive solutions.
“I have never seen the level of coordination and cooperation between the police department and violence prevention workers,” he said. “There was a time when they were not speaking with one another and that is no longer the case.”
Ricardo Garcia-Acosta, director of Northwest Community Response Network, a community-based, collaborative organization that serves at-risk youth and in-crisis families, discussed the successes of non-violent strategies during the conference.
Garcia explained that the CRN helped with the funeral costs of the two, non-gang related deaths, in addition to providing proper treatment to families of the victims.
“We’ve been able to cool down very high tensions at the sites of the vigils,” Garcia said. “[We] not only support the young men and women going through the grieving process but also help contain some of the madness with how they were expressing grief.”
Campos said that $30,000 has been secured for the CRN to help de-escalate the violence. The costs of an increased police presence and special task forces were not disclosed.
“Over the past five to six years, we’ve been noticing a trend with funding and the distribution of violence,” explained Tulier, who works closely with the CRN.
Tulier also discussed her disappointment with the mayor’s Director of Violence Prevention Services, Diana Oliva-Aroche. According to Tulier, Oliva-Aroche chose to increase funding to the San Francisco Organizing Project, a faith-based organization, over other anti-violence and pro-peace groups.
Regardless, throughout the past two months the Mission community has shown its resilience and determination. From peace marches to engaging with City Hall, the Mission community calls on everyone to unite in healing from the violence and in doing so create stronger bonds for peace.