Cleaning gang graffiti in San Diego. Image from YouTube

San Diego was awarded a $3.65 million California Violence Intervention and Prevention grant for the Peacemaker Project, a program that aims to interrupt cycles of violence among youth, it was announced Tuesday.

The project is intended to build on existing efforts led by Pastor Jesus Sandoval, executive director of the city’s Commission on Gang Prevention and Intervention, and would enable city staff, volunteers and community-based organizations to “mobilize and deploy de-escalation tactics in the aftermath of violence to prevent retaliatory violence,” according to the city.

“This is what we have been waiting for, for many years,” Sandoval said in a statement. “Finally, the stars have aligned for us to receive this funding, enabling us to display a truly collaborative model in the city of San Diego to reach our youth, moving them from trauma to healing and restoration using a proven wraparound model.”

That model is intended to help young people and their families connect to resources that will improve their well-being and discourage youth from gang activity, officials said. Available resources include trauma and behavioral health screenings and services, mentoring, employment assistance, education, parenting classes and financial crisis stabilization.

“I’m proud of what our Commission on Gang Prevention and Intervention has achieved through their work in the community, and this funding will help take it to the next level,” Mayor Todd Gloria said in a statement. “This model of supporting San Diego’s young people and giving them alternatives to violence — and by providing so many resources for communities to respond when violence occurs, this program can help address generational trauma and cultivate peace in our neighborhoods.”

The Peacemaker Project will primarily be implemented by six organizations that “have a solid track record and strong working relationship with the Gang Commission on community-led violence intervention,” according to the city.  These partners are Union of Pan Asian Communities, Community Wraparound, Open Heart Leaders, Paving Great Futures, Mothers with a Message and San Ysidro Health Center.

During the 30-month expanded program, community leaders hope to serve at least 300 youth and young adults as well as their close family and friends, ultimately reaching more than 1,000 San Diegans in all, officials said.

Participants will be identified and selected from three different sources: youth-involved violent incident reports — including from law enforcement, community members and the media, referrals from County Probation and requests from families for post-incarceration re-entry support.

According to state data, communities that received CalVIP grants during the 2018 grant cycle saw gun homicides decreased nearly three times more than those that did not receive CalVIP support.

–City News Service