KARLA MARTINEZ / Coachella Unincorporated
COACHELLA — On Friday, April 3, The City of Coachella held a press conference at city hall to ask the public for help in preventing violence in the community.
“Today on Good Friday, we have organized, not individually, but as a community to stand here to send a message that the City of Coachella stands united and will do everything in its powers to combat the mindless menace of violence and gangs within our city,” Coachella Mayor Steven Hernandez said.
The press conference comes five days after local youth, Anthony Delatorre, 20, was shot and killed on Marina Avenue in Coachella.
Delatorre’s death was the latest incident in a series of gun and gang related crimes in Coachella over the past four months.
During the press conference, Father Guy Wilson from Our Lady of Soledad in Coachella, offered condolences to Delatorre’s family members, who were in attendance, and he also urged community members to not encourage violence in their neighborhoods.
“We must stand together at this time to make sure that violence doesn’t beget violence.” Wilson said.
After the press conference, representatives from local organizations were on hand to field questions from community members. Many organizations represented at the press conference work with youth in Coachella to combat violence at an early age.
Hernandez said bringing these local organizations together is the first step towards preventing future violence in Coachella. But he also challenges local youth to voice their concerns about issues they see in their community.
Hernandez envisions creating a safe space for young people be heard, as well as organizing nighttime recreational programs and job opportunity fairs so young people can focus on creating a nonviolent future.
“We need to start listening to our youth. We need youth to come forward; we need them to be involved,” Hernandez said. “We need to know what is affecting them; what are the issues that they see? We need them here.”
Trinidad Arredondo, a project manager from the Regional Access Project Foundation (RAP), said RAP is working to develop a youth leadership program based on “Joven Noble”, a curriculum designed to discourage at-risk youth from continuing in a cycle of violence.
“What we want to do is work with [at-risk youth] to keep them safe, and to give them opportunities so that they build the skills needed to continue their education and go into the workforforce,” Arredondo said. “We want to offer opportunities to youth. We know these communities come together, but it needs to be an approach where all resources are put together to stop the violence.”
Vivian Perez, director of the Esperanza Youth and Family Center in Coachella, echoed Arredondo’s statement, and said she was encouraged by the show of support for ending gun and gang related violence in Coachella. But Perez said the community needs to keep working together if it wants stop the cycle of violence in their city.
“It’s very important that we need to keep this momentum going. I’m just excited that everyone is here, and we’re all working to fix this,” she said. “Is there a fix for this? We don’t know, but we have to start somewhere.”