In a unique approach to an intractable gang problem, Salinas, Ca., is recruiting abuelitas — a Spanish term of endearment for grandmothers — because of the traditional influence they wield in their families, says the San Francisco Chronicle. At a meeting Saturday, the grandmothers, some with grandchildren on their knees, drew inspiration from each other and brainstormed ideas that ranged from “set drug-free examples” to “get on (our) knees and pray for them.”
The tactic is a part of multi-faceted approach by Salinas Mayor Dennis Donohue to address gang violence, which he sees as the most serious issue in this city, whose surrounding valley grows so much produce that it’s been called “The Salad Bowl of the World.” A legion of grandmothers jumping out of patrol cars with police to confront gang members is “not the basic game plan,” Donohue said. Instead, city officials are considering options like forming a group of grandmothers to provide counseling to youths and encourage involvement in sports and groups like the Boy Scouts. Another idea is a program to provide every child in the city with a library card and to have grandmothers take them to the library and support their reading. The city of about 145,000, where more than half the residents are of Hispanic origin, experienced a surge in violent crime in the mid-1990s. The primary gang conflicts involve rival Latino groups: the Norteños and the Sureños.