March Against Violence

By: Norberto Perez |Staff Writer| A Raw Paw  Blog

“Two of my children were stabbed,” said Debra Casillas, 51, “Life is getting worse here in San Bernardino.”
Casillas who has lived in San Bernardino all her life cites problems to, “Children roaming the streets; doing drugs and having no respect for their elders.”

Her daughter, Sonia Gonzales echoed deep concern, “Gang life and tagging crews have no paths but to hospitalization, jail and death.”

The two were part of a march down Mt. Vernon. The avenue is a mirror of much of the county: barren lots, struggling businesses and graffiti.

Traffic rang in their support with horns and yells of approval. The brisk Saturday morning protest was encouraged by the locals as the sun began to creep into 90’s.

Casillas in protest of the police investigation of the assault on her family and contemplation for the future of San Bernardino youth went to city hall with the idea of a march down one of larger thoroughfares in her neighborhood.

The local government supported her and guided her through the red tape which facilitated her ability to exercise her freedoms of speech. They told her of a statute which stated that if she keeps the march to less than 40 people she wouldn’t need a permit.

Saturday morning her church congregation gathered up protest signs, walking shoes and some spiritual guidance.

Some of the signs read, “Stop the violence.” While other signs quoted the book of Ephesians. The Christian congregation made it clear the march was more to promote spiritual awareness than a protest of dissatisfaction with the police or hatred toward criminals.

Casillas has a tough road ahead. Not because Mt. Vernon is unsafe to walk in daylight or any other immediate reason.

What makes this story tough for Casillas as well as for any other parent are the statistics.

San Bernardino County is the largest in the nation. There is no revenue to offset the cost of patrolling by the police and sheriff’s departments to cover a wider area. Thus, adding one more hurdle to the difficulty in solving crimes. But some cases are resolved but never taken to court for the lack witnesses.

The Wikipedia website reported comparing both Inland Empire counties, “In the city of Riverside, 14 homicides occurred in 2009, down from 20 in 2008, its highest total since 2003. All but three cases resulted in arrests. In San Bernardino, by contrast, 32 killings occurred in 2009, a number identical to 2008, but only a third of cases in San Bernardino led to arrests, due to a lack of witness cooperation in that city.”

From the State of California website,” teenagers crime rate has declined 21.54 percent but one out of two crimes is a felony. The adult crime rates have dropped only .41 percent but the county figures still double the state average.”

The Neighborhoodscout website statistics’ show that the safest part of the county as “Crestline, Lake Arrowhead and Running Springs.” While the epicenter of violence wraps around the “city center.”

Another State of California link the Legislative Analyst Office stated that juveniles tend to commit crimes because of failure in school, family problems, substance abuse, patterns behavior problems such as running away, gang membership and gun possession.

Whether or not “school failure” results in wayward teens or vice-versa statistics show crime rates and school achievement seem to correlate. The county’s high crime rates are paralleled by low graduation rates and high drop out rates.

“Among the 100 largest districts, the lowest graduation rate was in San Bernardino City Unified district (42 percent), followed by Detroit (42 percent) and New York City (43 percent),” states the Manhattan Institute for policy research.
According to CSUSB President Al Karnig,“21 inland area high schools rank in the top 100 in California for producing dropouts,”

Mathematically these two statistics add up to an illiterate adult population that will eventually have to re-enroll in some form of education to be self-sufficient.

The congregation, men, women and children continued to walk up Mt. Vernon. In the back, a small white dog was run over by a motorist. A sign that while we move to deal with personal problems and civic responsibilities life should be appreciated while it can be.

In this march, Debra Casillas has taken more children under her own wings; Whether her aim was to be a role model or not one thing certain: she is. So, next Saturday morning whether your an early bird or late riser think of what you can do to help out your fellow neighbor, relative or absolute stranger, even they need help.


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