Thursday, March 13, 2008

Gang killing saga continues, community still shaken one year later


On a sun-drenched day one year ago, 15-year-old Luis Angel Linares was stabbed to death near the intersection of Carrillo and State Streets during a massive brawl between Santa Barbara’s rival gangs.
After being stabbed eight different times, Linares made his way to the valet parking lot of Saks Fifth Avenue, where he collapsed into a planter. As police arrived on the scene, gang members fled in two directions. East and West.

The reverberations from the flagrant violence of that day continue to shake this city, which has grappled with how best to combat youth violence ever since.
City officials, non-profits, the police, teachers and recreation programs have all thrown services into use.
But the violence has continued. It kept a fast pace through last summer, when 16-year-old Lorenzo Valentin Carachure was stabbed to death near his parents’ home on the 700 block of San Pascual St. Two other males, both walking with Carachure, were also stabbed, but neither suffered life-threatening injuries.
In Carachure’s case, no suspects have yet been arrested, while the boy who police say killed Linares, 15-year-old Ricardo “Ricky” Juarez, was promptly charged with murder and will be tried as an adult.
Juarez was 14 at this time last year, and according to information made public during a preliminary hearing last August, was seen stabbing Linares in the middle of State Street with a knife, which ended up having his DNA on the handle, and Linares’ blood on the blade.
Countless other stabbings have also occurred, the most recent of which came on Monday, when a 28-year-old man was stabbed multiple times near the 300 block of W. Yanonali St.
While the stabbings continue making headlines, a task force consisting of a core group of community leaders and youth activists has convened at the prompting of the city.
Together, those involved hope to improve communication between local agencies and launch a number of other programs aimed at preventing the area’s youth from getting on board gangs.
Don Olson, the city’s special programs manager, said he believes many of the involved parties have begun to chip away at the issues, even if the measurable success is minor.
“We’re very encouraged by what’s happening,” he said. “We feel we’ve been helpful in throwing people together in that regard and we’re very encouraged.”
But Olson is one of the first to admit the road to ending gang violence is a long one, and Santa Barbara has just begun its trek.
“This is going to take a long term commitment and concerted effort by a lot of people,” he said.
Olson said the March 14 stabbing mobilized a lot of people. He said the brazenness of the incident “got people’s attention in a big way.”
One of the specific programs the city has implemented over the past year to reach out to youth is its youth apprenticeship program, which was expanded and provides young people jobs within the city’s Parks and Recreation Department over the summer.
Olson said he’s optimistic with the direction the newly formed task force is taking.
“What’s encouraging is the energy,” he said. “The energy at that meeting was very positive and people are willing to take it on.”
Santa Barbara Mayor Pro Tempore Grant House emphasized that the solution to ending gang violence does not rest solely on the city’s shoulders, but upon those of every resident.
“Everybody has a role to play and everybody is trying to fill a hole of unmet need,” he said. “It’s a full-court press by the whole community to address this issue.”
House said the steps being taken now are a continuation of programs and efforts that were being carried out before Linares’ death.
One program didn’t exist before Linares’ death was the Police Activities League’s soccer teams.
In a recent Daily Sound story, Officer Kent Wojciechoski said two soccer teams, one for 15 year olds and another for 13 year olds, were established days after Linares was killed.
Within the onslaught of public forums and meetings that came on the heels of the boy’s death, Wojciechoski said parents told him their children needed a team to play soccer with.
“They said ‘we’ll make sure our kids are there if you start soccer,’” he said during an interview on March 5. “It filled up quick.”
While city and police officials maintain they are doing their best to address the problem, Brian McCarthy, a sixth grade teacher at Cleveland Elementary School who had Juarez in a class, said he sees little progress from his standpoint.
“From what I’ve seen I’d have to say no,” McCarthy said. “I don’t know if they [the city] have the right stakeholders involved.”
McCarthy, who has been an avid supporter of Juarez’s and often attends his former student’s court proceedings, said he still sees the same players hanging around the Pennywise Market, and none of those who were in trouble last year have chosen a different path.
McCarthy did say he’s noticed an increased police presence.
In regards to Linares, McCarthy said he feels horrible that a life was lost and that the court proceedings are ongoing. But he said he continues to believe that Juarez is not responsible for killing Linares.
While McCarthy was open with his critique of what has been done so far to combat gang violence, he admitted he doesn’t know what the answer is either.
House declined to comment on the specifics surrounding today’s anniversary, but noted he and others at the city have come a long way in the past year to understand the issues.
“I think it would be a mistake to say we’ve solved it or are close to solving it,” he said. “We still have a long way to go and have to keep working together on it.
“It’s the kind of problem that may not truly ever have any kind of an end.”

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Brian McCarthy is a joke. "While McCarthy was open with his critique of what has been done so far to combat gang violence, he admitted he doesn’t know what the answer is either."

There is nothing noble about opposing. Be brave, offer a solution or don't complain.