Robyn Burke / 415-603-9696 / Robyn.Burke@sfgov.org
Public Information Officer
SAN FRANCISCO –
Today, San Francisco District Attorney Boudin hosted a virtual convening, “Public Health Approaches to Preventing Gun Violence,” in partnership with Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence; Brady United Against Violence; Healing 4 Our Families and Our Nation; and the UCSF Wraparound Project. The event brought together survivors of gun violence, community leaders, and violence-prevention practitioners to discuss gun violence and proven solutions. District Attorney Boudin delivered opening remarks, calling gun violence in the United States an epidemic and demanding that we develop individual and collective interventions to stop it.
“As District Attorney, I see the terrible impact of gun violence in our communities, particularly in our Black and brown communities,” said District Attorney Boudin. “We must change the way we approach this issue. Gun violence is an epidemic infecting the entire nation, and together we must stop the spread.”
Tinisch Hollins, Keynote Address
The summit’s keynote address was delivered by Tinisch Hollins, Executive Director of Californians for Safety and Justice. Tinisch spoke from her perspective as both a community activist and as a survivor of gun violence, describing how these perspectives color her daily work advocating for victims of crime. She emphasized that the prevalence of gun violence in our community, particularly in our communities of color, is not a new issue. Hollins explained that we will continue to fail to address these problems with a one-dimensional focus on punishment. Until we invest in our communities, we will not break the cycles of violence and we will not have safety in our communities. “Well-being creates safety. Well-being is public safety,” she emphasized.
“We must center the voices of impacted people in policy decisions. Our exclusion from policy conversations is why our public safety system fails to provide our communities with real safety. It’s critical that decision-makers hear our voices now. Because more than anything else, most survivors just want what happened to us to never happen to anyone else again,” she said.
First Panel Explored the Community-Led Response to Gun Violence
Following the keynote address, District Attorney Boudin moderated the first panel, “Community Led Approaches to Gun Violence Intervention.” This panel explored the work of community leaders and organizations that work to prevent gun violence. The speakers included: Rudy Corpuz, Jr., Executive Director of United Playaz, James Caldwell, Chief Officer of Criminal Justice & Public Safety at the Office of the Mayor, Julia Orellana, Case Manager at UCSF Wraparound Project, Arturo Carrillo, Director of San Francisco Street Violence Intervention Program, and Howard Smith Jr., Street Violence Intervention Program. DA Boudin led the discussion that focused on what we, as a community, can do to end gun violence.
The panelists agreed that we must treat community violence prevention programs as an essential part of public safety and fund them accordingly. James Caldwell emphasized the need for funding, “We need job security for the programs and workers. You need to pay the people on the ground doing the work and make sure they can feed their families so they can continue to do the work.”
Julia Orellana spoke about the work being done by the UCSF Wraparound Project, a national model that has been adopted by multiple jurisdictions. The Wraparound Project provides victims of violence with mentorship and access to essential risk-reduction resources. She also acknowledged that the work cannot be done without adequate funding: “It’s funding – we have the services, and we’re pioneers – but we need more funding.”
Arturo Carrillo spoke about the importance of the trust that is created when members of the community respond in conjunction with law enforcement. “We’re in the community to promote trust – because once the trust is built the youngsters listen – we can figure out what they need to get them off the block. When all the agencies work together to help change the future – we can connect the dots to help someone change their life.”
Howard Smith Jr. agreed, “The most important piece to it is the trust – we have the trust of certain folks, they would tell us certain things or do certain things with us that they won’t do with other folks – going back to what Tinisch said, we are able to listen to the need and then be able to connect to them to services.”
Rudy Corpuz Jr. agreed that it takes everyone working together to make a difference in gun violence, “It takes the hood to save the hood. It’s all of us or none of us, because when someone gets shot, guess what, we’re all affected by it. We all need to work together, unified under one umbrella to get rid of those guns.”
Second Panel Discussed Public Health approaches to gun violence intervention
The second panel, “Shifting to a Public Health Approach,” was moderated by Mike McLively, Community Violence Initiative Policy Director at Giffords Law Center Against Gun Violence. Panel 2 explored the need to refocus our understanding of gun violence in our community – recognizing that gun violence prevention solutions need a collaborative approach. Included on the panel were: Chief William Scott, San Francisco Police Department, Chief Guillermo Cespedes, Chief of Violence Prevention, Oakland Department of Violence Prevention, and Erica Rice, Program Manager at Brady United Against Violence.
Chief Guillermo Cespedes spoke to the need to work both locally and regionally to develop strategies to not only prevent violence, but to ensure that the drivers of violence are recognized on a larger scale: “Prevention of violence needs to be localized, but the assessment of violence needs to be broader.”
Chief Scott addressed the need for his department to work with the community and outside agencies “We need to do more to work on building the trust and create a space for community participation for dealing with cases. When we do the right thing and treat people with dignity when they come forward it goes a long way to develop that trust.” Chief Scott detailed the ways in which the San Francisco Police Department and the District Attorney’s office were working together to address gun violence, particularly in their joint work to address the proliferation of ghost guns in San Francisco. Chief Scott stated that the number of ghost guns have exploded “exponentially” within San Francisco in recent years.
The panelists also recognized the need to invest back into marginalized communities – particularly because the pandemic has done damage to already fragile systems. Erica Rice spoke about the current state of our communities: “We need to acknowledge how on edge everyone is – imagine navigating a pandemic without having your basic needs met – our marginalized communities have been hit the hardest by this pandemic. Most of communities experiencing violence are Black and brown communities – most of the people experiencing a lack of basic needs are Black and brown communities. These communities don’t exist in a vacuum, and they shouldn’t be expected to solve this problem on their own.”
Chief Cespedes talked about what he is seeing in his community “Infrastructure and safety nets and systems that were fragile to begin with in the marginalized community are now falling apart. Agencies that provide daily needs are overstretched. We need to reinvest in our communities.”
Third Panel Explored Gun Violence Through a Survivor’s Lens
The third panel, “Centering Survivors of Community Violence” focused on survivors of gun violence. The panel was moderated by Kasie Lee, Chief of Victim Services for the District Attorney’s Office, and featured Mattie Scott, Executive Director of Healing 4 our Families and our Nation, and Ashely and Michelle Monterrosa, from Justice4Sean. Having lost loved ones to gun violence, the panelists bravely shared the impact this loss has on their daily lives, and how they have devoted themselves to advocating for those families who have endured unimaginable loss.
All three survivors spoke about the disparities they have experienced as victims of crime and emphasized the need to create an equitable system for all victims and survivors of violence. Mattie Scott reminded everyone that “it’s about all of us, or none of us. It’s being fair to everyone – giving everyone the same amount or respect. Where is the respect given to mothers whose kids have been killed – when they’re not high profile victims? We need more compassion; we need more resources – we need services for all victims of gun violence.”
Ashley and Michelle Monterrosa, who lost their brother Sean to police violence, took the opportunity to push for the passage of SB 299, legislation sponsored by District Attorney Boudin, which would give survivors of any crime access to support for medical bills, funeral expenses, and counseling.
All three survivors also emphasized the need to make space to care for yourself. Michelle and Ashley said, “It doesn’t matter how long it’s been – 1 year, 5 years, or 25 years – you feel the loss every day. We need to ensure that all victims are given the same resources and support and we need to continue to show up.” Mattie Scott closed out the convening by leading the panelists, moderators, DA Boudin, and the audience in a breathing exercise.
The entire convening, including all three panels, can be watched at: https://www.facebook.com/SFDistrictAttorney.
To learn more about the work the District Attorney’s Office is doing to prevent gun violence, please visit our website: https://sfdistrictattorney.org/resources/californias-red-flag-law/;
For information on community violence please visit: https://giffords.org/issues/community-violence/