Gangs Focus of Vegas ‘Season of Peace’ Outreach
“We’ve often attempted to address the ills of societal violence by dealing with symptoms on the surface,” said Jon D. Ponder, founder and CEO of HOPE for Prisoners. “We need to do more to address root issues and work to break the cycle.”
Representatives form the Las Vegas law enforcement and faith-based communities are continuing their efforts to do just that. In fact, news of their ongoing successful collaboration led to the city being hand-picked by the national Rebuilding Every City Around Peace (RECAP) team to be part of the 2015 “Season of Peace,” a non-violence initiative underway through June 15. Las Vegas is joining cities across the U.S. in calling for a week where no homicides are committed.
On the evening of June 9, Ponder, Pastor Troy Martinez of East Vegas Christian Center and Associate Pastor Donnie Grinnell of Trinity Life Center are taking the message of peace directly to a group of men who can make a significant difference. They’re meeting with incarcerated gang leaders one-on-one, in hopes of encouraging them to become part of the “Season of Peace” initiative and help stop the violence. The trio will also share their personal tales of trials and triumph with a gathering of more than 80 gang-affiliated inmates.
“Leadership is influence, and what many people don’t realize is that – even while incarcerated – gang leaders wield a lot of influence over their followers.” Ponder said. “That’s why it’s important for the ‘shot callers’ to get on the same page with us and work towards peace. The gang leaders and members on the inside can sway what happens in the streets – for bad or for good.”
Ponder, Martinez and Grinnell aren’t just well-meaning citizens seeking to give back to the community. Each has had experience on the negative side of the law, experience that uniquely qualifies them to speak to those who are now in similar situations. In addition to tonight’s scheduled meetings, the trio (along with the mother of a son who lost his life to violence) is featured in a video that will air all week in both Clark County detention centers.
“As much as we’d like to, we can’t spend time with every single inmate tonight,” Ponder said. “This video will help extend our reach and raise awareness of what we’re hoping to accomplish.
While the immediate goal is to enlist the gang members’ help in keeping the city homicide-free this week, the ultimate goal is far greater.
“We also hope to build relationships with them that will extend past June 15, past the ‘Season of Peace,’” Ponder said. “This is part of a pilot program and – if it works – we hope to do this on a larger scale to curb or prevent senseless acts of violence all over the country.”
Tonight’s meetings are part of a series of activities scheduled throughout the Las Vegas valley this week. For more information, visit the Las Vegas RECAP website at www.recaplv.org. Information on the national “Season of Peace” initiative can be found at the RECAP site, www.recapevents.org.