By Vanguard Staff
SAN FRANCISCO, CA — Noting the “terrible impact” of gun violence, San Francisco District Attorney Boudin hosted a virtual community event – “Public Heath Approaches to Preventing Gun Violence” – this past week.
It can be watched at: https://www.facebook.com/SFDistrictAttorney
Partnering with Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence; Brady United Against Violence; Healing 4 Our Families and Our Nation; and the UCSF Wraparound Project, the event involved survivors of gun violence, community leaders, and violence-prevention practitioners to “discuss gun violence and proven solutions,” according to Boudin, who called U.S. gun violence an epidemic.
“As District Attorney, I see the terrible impact of gun violence in our communities, particularly in our Black and brown communities,” said DA Boudin. “We must change the way we approach this issue. Gun violence is an epidemic infecting the entire nation, and together we must stop the spread.”
Keynote speaker Tinisch Hollins, Executive Director of Californians for Safety and Justice, noted that gun violence, particularly in communities of color, is not new.
“Safety is not the absence of crime — it is the presence of well-being. My safety should not be at the expense of anyone else, and I would ask the same of everyone else,” said Hollins, who maintained the U.S. continues to fail because of a “one-dimensional focus of punishment,” and must “invest in our communities” to break the cycle of violence.”
“We must center the voices of impacted people in policy decisions. Our exclusion from policy conversations is why our public safety system fails to provide our communities with real safety. It’s critical that decision-makers hear our voices now. Because more than anything else, most survivors just want what happened to us to never happen to anyone else again,” Hollins said.
A panel, “Community Led Approaches to Gun Violence Intervention,” moderated by Boudin, focused on what a community can do to end gun violence.
Speakers included: Rudy Corpuz, Jr., Executive Director of United Playaz; James Caldwell, Chief Officer of Criminal Justice & Public Safety at the Office of the Mayor; Julia Orellana, Case Manager at UCSF Wraparound Project; Arturo Carrillo, Director of San Francisco Street Violence Intervention Program, and Howard Smith Jr., Street Violence Intervention Program.
According to a synopsis by the DA’s Office, the “panelists agreed that we must treat community violence prevention programs as an essential part of public safety and fund them accordingly.”
“We need job security for the programs and workers. You need to pay the people on the ground doing the work and make sure they can feed their families so they can continue to do the work,” said panelist Caldwell.
Julia Orellana noted the work of UCSF Wraparound Project, a national model that has been adopted by multiple jurisdictions. It provides victims of violence with mentorship and access to essential risk-reduction resources.
Like Caldwell, Orellana said, “It’s funding – we have the services, and we’re pioneers – but we need more funding.”
Carrillo said trust is created when members of the community work with law enforcement, arguing, “We’re in the community to promote trust – because once the trust is built the youngsters listen – we can figure out what they need to get them off the block. When all the agencies work together to help change the future – we can connect the dots to help someone change their life.”
“The most important piece to it is the trust – we have the trust of certain folks, they would tell us certain things or do certain things with us that they won’t do with other folks – going back to what Tinisch said, we are able to listen to the need and then be able to connect to them to services,” Smith said.
Corpuz Jr. insisted it takes everyone to stop gun violence, explaining, “It takes the hood to save the hood. It’s all of us or none of us, because when someone gets shot, guess what, we’re all affected by it. We all need to work together, unified under one umbrella to get rid of those guns.”
The second panel, “Shifting to a Public Health Approach,” moderated by Mike McLively, Community Violence Initiative Policy Director at Giffords Law Center Against Gun Violence, explored the “need to refocus understanding of gun violence in our community – recognizing that gun violence prevention solutions need a collaborative approach,” according to a DA Office statement.
Panel members included, Police Chief William Scott, San Francisco Police Department, Chief Guillermo Cespedes, Chief of Violence Prevention, Oakland Department of Violence Prevention, and Erica Rice, Program Manager at Brady United Against Violence.
Cespedes talked about “the need to work both locally and regionally to develop strategies to not only prevent violence, but to ensure that the drivers of violence are recognized on a larger scale…Prevention of violence needs to be localized, but the assessment of violence needs to be broader.”
Scott said agencies should work closer, noting, “We need to do more to work on building the trust and create a space for community participation for dealing with cases. When we do the right thing and treat people with dignity when they come forward it goes a long way to develop that trust.”
Chief Scott explained how the San Francisco Police Department and the District Attorney’s office work together to stop gun violence, especially the proliferation of ghost guns in San Francisco, stating the number of ghost guns have exploded “exponentially” within San Francisco in recent years.
“We need to acknowledge how on edge everyone is – imagine navigating a pandemic without having your basic needs met – our marginalized communities have been hit the hardest by this pandemic. Most of communities experiencing violence are Black and brown communities – most of the people experiencing a lack of basic needs are Black and brown communities. These communities don’t exist in a vacuum, and they shouldn’t be expected to solve this problem on their own,” Rice emphasized.
Cespedes said, “Infrastructure and safety nets and systems that were fragile to begin with in the marginalized community are now falling apart. Agencies that provide daily needs are overstretched. We need to reinvest in our communities.”
Finally, the third panel, “Centering Survivors of Community Violence,” addressed survivors of gun violence.
The panel was moderated by Kasie Lee, Chief of Victim Services for the District Attorney’s Office, and featured Mattie Scott, Executive Director of Healing 4 our Families and our Nation, and Ashely and Michelle Monterrosa, from Justice4Sean.
“Having lost loved ones to gun violence, the panelists bravely shared the impact this loss has on their daily lives, and how they have devoted themselves to advocating for those families who have endured unimaginable loss,” explained the DA Office in its post panel statement.
Scott reminded, “it’s about all of us, or none of us. It’s being fair to everyone – giving everyone the same amount or respect. Where is the respect given to mothers whose kids have been killed – when they’re not high profile victims? We need more compassion; we need more resources – we need services for all victims of gun violence.”
Ashley and Michelle Monterrosa, who lost their brother Sean to police violence, promoted the passage of SB 299, legislation sponsored by DA Boudin. The measures gives survivors of any crime access to support for medical bills, funeral expenses, and counseling.
The Monterrosa siblings added, “It doesn’t matter how long it’s been – 1 year, 5 years, or 25 years – you feel the loss every day. We need to ensure that all victims are given the same resources and support and we need to continue to show up.”