The concept of bringing potential gang members into a community college campus environment is a very large pill for students and faculty to swallow gleefully.Pasadena City College has accepted a proposal by the city to train local gang members to drive trucks as well as give them job opportunities.

The program is part of Pasadena’s recent anti-violence initiative to help reduce youth crime and provide a solid infrastructure to improve safety in the city in the long-term.

The biggest, most blatantly obvious question that some are asking is – will we be safe?

We think we will.

The PCC program is entirely voluntary, targeting primarily high school students, giving them an opportunity to simply go down a different-and better-path in life.

The program will be located at Community Education Center, CEC, a small separate campus location at 3035 E. Foothill Blvd., a location a little over one mile away from the PCC campus.

Though the site is not directly in PCC’s front-yard, do we really want possible gang members hanging around where students commute to and from classes and where faculty members maintain their offices?

Not necessarily. And the recent lobbying to carry guns by the campus police leaves no assurance of our safety.

But the Pasadena Community College District is an important part of the community serving the entire city. It is not a gated campus, it is open to everyone, and the high tide of crime cannot wash against the walls of gated communities forever. We cannot hide from it. We must attack it head on.

The Rev. Gregory Boyle, a Jesuit priest, and founder of Homeboy Industries to help give job training and opportunities to gang members in Los Angeles said, “nothing stops a bullet like a job.”

With PCC rated the second best community college in the state, they couldn’t have chosen a better place to give people in Pasadena something they desperately need – education, – through the simple idea of “catching them while they’re young,” an ironic juxtaposition to the tobacco companies.

The most common statement ex-gang affiliates mention when questioned about what would have kept them away from joining a gang in the first place is having better job opportunities.

Historically speaking one thing is also certain: There is a direct correlation with unemployment and community violence. Dating back to the Great Depression, communist revolutions in China and Russia, and even the reasons for World War II, unemployment is the primary cause of crime and disorderly conduct.

The only possible issue is if the program does not catch the students while they’re young enough.

The majority of kids join gangs in middle school and come from working-class families looking for a place to belong.

Only time will tell how effective the program will be.

We believe it is a good start and a great way for PCC to really make a solid dent in helping stop violence in Pasadena.

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