The Clergy Association of Greater Santa Barbara meets frequently, to discuss both the religious matters on their minds and, frequently, ways they can interact with the community in a wider sense.

On Wednesday, SBPD Chief Cam Sanchez attended the Clergy Association’s lunch, to discuss how the clergy of Santa Barbara can assist with one of the most pressing problems on his mind: youth violence. As anyone who opens a newspaper, glances at a television, or surfs the internet can attest, youth violence, particularly gang-related, is on the rise in Santa Barbara. There have been multiple incidents of stabbings, beatings, and attacks in recent months, with some resulting in fatalities, such as the killing of Angel Luis Linares on March 14 of last year.

SBPD Chief Cam Sanchez at the scene of another fatal stabbing–of another 15-year-old, Angel Linares–last year.
Paul Wellman

While police prioritize the solving of such crimes, information leading to an arrest is not always available. After one recent incident, for example, the victim refused to provide the identities of his attackers. In some cases, therefore, the SBPD’s hands are tied – no matter how much effort they might expend.

Since fighting youth violence after the fact is then occasionally less than effective, Sanchez is eager to explore preventative measures. Parental involvement, for Sanchez, is the key to almost any effort to prevent youth violence. “Loving your children enough to be tough,” he said, is essential. His own father followed this method of child-raising. He added that “we do have a lot of these parents in Santa Barbara,” but that this, on its own, is not enough. “We have young people who have made . . . conscious decisions to hurt and kill each other,” he said, and it will take more than the involvement of parents to get this situation under control.

Reaching out to what he called “the faith-based community” is the next step in Sanchez’s program of youth violence prevention. He believes that when clergy make an effort to communicate on this topic with their parishioners, their awareness and personal interest can be of great help. Chief Sanchez asked the clergy who were present at the meeting to take a few minutes, during the next few months, to make this issue the focus of their congregation’s attention. The hope is that individuals will make an effort in and out of their religious communities to have a positive effect on the issues facing the Santa Barbara community as a whole.

Even outside of their religious affiliations, Sanchez offered several ways in which Santa Barbarans can take action. The police offer a citizen academy every Tuesday evening, in which citizens can learn more about police operations, about their rights under the law, and about the public problems faced by our city. Pastor Charles A. Reed, Sr., of the Lewis Chapel CME Church, is enrolled in one of these programs and will soon being working as a police chaplain. Other clergy present at the meeting indicated an interest in taking action also, above and beyond speaking to their congregations.

Any readers who attend church can ask their pastor, priest, or rabbi about how they can get involved in any measures taken by local clergy to prevent or ameliorate youth violence. The Clergy Association can be reached via their website, and information about the police department citizen academy can be requested from the program coordinator, Sergeant Lorenzo Duarte, at 897-2300.


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