- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 30, 2006

Solving the region’s growing gang violence problem will require mentors who understand street culture — that was the consensus among the more than 100 residents, students and panelists who discussed gang violence today at a Washington Times-sponsored forum in Northeast.

“One of the things that weve got to understand and come into realization is that a gang member is not going to come to the door and say ‘hey guys could you save my life,” said Juan Pacheco, 28, a former gang member who now works with gangs to bring peace. “The probability of that happening is zero-point-zero. So we as individuals have to reach out to them. We’re tired of violence, we’re tired of our brothers and sister dying, man, and we need you and you need us.”

Both the audience and the panelists highlighted a faith-based approach, stronger families, outreach from former gang members to current ones and the presence of strong role models in the community to combat violence.

“Regardless of the message, one of the things I’ve found is that the message must be modeled by the messenger,” said panelist Darrell Green, the former Washington Redskin star who now runs several youth organizations. “I believe the best defense is a great offense.”

Other panelists included Robert Woodson, founder of the National Center for Neighborhood Enterprise, the Rev. Fred Shuttersworth, civil rights leader, Luis Cardona, a former gang member who now works with area at-risk youth and Robert Goodwin, president of the Points of Light Foundation.

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