It’s a war where the victims are often kids. The battlefield is Sacramento streets. There is no winner in gang violence, but there is new hope.
Cops and Clergy is a first-of-its-kind force with a focus not on shootings, but on saving lives. In March, more than a dozen people injured as tension escalated between two rival groups. Just last week, one person was killed and six injured in a drive by shooting during a kids’ birthday party in north Natomas.
Beyond the cries and crime scene tape, a harrowing statistic. Shootings are up 30 percent in Sacramento in the last year, many gang related.
“We know we`re not going to save everybody. It doesn’t mean we won`t try.” Lieutenant Roman Murrietta, the Sacramento Police Gang Task Force leader, told FOX40. “Sometimes it takes just a little influence and you can go left instead of right.”
That influence from an unlikely group: Cops and Clergy.
“All that’s necessary for evil to triumph is for good people to do nothing, and it’s time for people to stand up,” Pastor Anthony Sadler said.
Preachers like Pastor Sadler know they have influence and credibility in a community that trusts few people in authority.
“We’re the ones who have to put a message of comfort together that can bring some peace from God in the midst of something that should have never happened,” he said.
Together they visit schools, jail or just knock on doors. On one afternoon, they visited Sacramento Charter High School. With no agenda, except to say hello, the kids opened up.
“When the police get called, it`s usually a negative situation,” Murietta said. “It’s too late to get to know each other on a human level and we are changing that.”
For the pastors, it’s a chance to let their guard down.
It couldn’t be more true for Victory Outreach Pastor Richard Ramirez, an ex-gang banger who spent time in prison for assault with a deadly weapon.
“I know exactly where they`re at. A lot of them grew up the same way I did, growing up without a father, growing up poor,” Ramirez said.
Some visits are tougher.
This 16-year-old on probation was wandering the streets. Sadly, the officers know him. But they’re patient, with no rebuke and just love. The visit lasts a few minutes, but police and preachers will be back.
They have no other choice If they want to win the war on gangs.
“Just getting involved in their life. And just kind a recognizing where they`re at and meeting them there,” Ramirez said.
Police say since they’ve deployed more resources toward the gang unit earlier this year, shootings are down 42%.