LOMPOC, Calif. -- With four prominent gangs in the Lompoc community, the Victory Outreach Center is fighting back.
A former hit man for the Mexican Mafia stopped by the center to spread a message of hope for gang members to turn their lives around.
Growing up in a culture that glamorizes gang violence, Art Blajos worked his way to the top of the Mexican Mafia, spiraling down into a world of drugs, prison and murder.
"You don't realize it," says Blajos. "But to get involved in this, you eventually become as they say, a cold-blooded killer and someone said if you continue to ignore your conscience and violate it, then you destroy it."
Right now, Victory Outreach in Lompoc estimates there are roughly 700 gang members in the city from four prominent gangs and homicides increase every year.
Jose Godinez is a former gang member of the Lompoc gang called "Southside", who came to hear Blajos' message of redemption.
"One of my nieces said 'why doesn't he love us enough to stay out here?', says Godinez. "And those were the actual words and when I heard that it broke my pride down. It broke everything down and I knew that I needed change."
Now, Blajos has spent 27 years spreading his message to other gang members.
"I regret that were hurt, the lives that were destroyed, the families torn apart," says Blajos.
He says it's never too late to turn around.
"Evidence, I'm that, of a life transformed," says Blajos. "It doesn't have to end in jail, in prison, on drugs, it can stop today."
For twenty years, Victory Outreach of Lompoc has offered a home and rehabilitation center for former gang members in the community.
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