SALINAS, Calif.- On Thursday night local teens, not just adults, took a stand against the youth gang violence problem on the Central Coast. A state lawmaker, also in the crowd, said he's taking the message from those teens straight to Sacramento. We listened to the ideas and concerns hundreds of people had at the town hall discussion at La Paz Middle School.
"I'm scared to walk home from school," said Alisal High School senior Jorge Quiroz.
Quiroz said he has many fears living as a young, Hispanic male living in east Salinas. He said a shooting that happened a few years ago near campus, put a level of fear in his mind that he's unable to erase.
"It creates that fear that you know you're not very safe in school either and that's something that no student should feel because school is where you go to learn," Quiroz said.
At a town hall discussion, local and state leaders said it's students like Jorge who need to reach out to kids getting ready to slip through the cracks. They said finding the money to help them connect is the biggest problem. Senator Cannella, Salinas Mayor Joe Gunter, Salinas Police Chief Kelly McMillin, Monterey County Chief Probation Officer Manny Real and several others took questions from the group for about an hour and a half.
"This is an important statewide issue and we should have a seat at the table. Not only to be present, but also financially," said California State Senator Anthony Cannella, R-Ceres.
Cannella said he set up the town hall, where hundreds showed up, to give the whole group a fair chance to share their frustrations with gang violence. Cannella didn't get too specific, but said the state is in a position to help the city of Salinas financially improve it's ability to tackle the problem head on.
"Prop 30 will take pressure off the state budget. So I think that there's more money to come down to the community to help combat a whole host of issues," Cannella said.
Jorge said he's ready to be a part of that ongoing discussion.
"I am a community member of the east side of Salinas and this is very important to me," Quiroz said.
Cannella said this is the first time he's had a public conversation focusing just on the issue of gang violence. He plans to take what people had to say and look for grants or other sources of money, to improve intervention programs for teens.