City approves program to pay gang members not to shoot

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One city that is experiencing escalating gang-related shootings believes it has the solution to cut the shootings and homicides in half within the next four years: The city will pay gang members cash to not shoot and “remain peaceful.”

The Sacramento City Council voted 9-0 Tuesday, Aug. 29, to approve the “Advance Peace” program, after just experiencing a violent weekend of gang-related shootings.

The vote occurred on the same night as a vigil was held for the latest victim, a 49-year-old father, Ernie Cadena, who was gunned down by gang members, along with four other victims, at a park on Sunday.

“It was his only day off from work, and he just came to the wrong place at the wrong time,” said Aliseah Cadena, the victim’s daughter. “He was a wonderful father, and he was a soon-to-be father. And I wish I could have him back.”

Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg pushed the city council to proceed with a vote on the deal two weeks earlier than was originally planned, due to the shooting at the park.

“Let’s get going on doing everything we can to save innocent lives,” Steinberg said.

The Advance Peace program, already being used in Richmond, and under consideration in Stockton, offers gang leaders cash to attend graduate school and remain peaceful, Fox 40 reported.

The city will be on the hook for $1.5 million for the four-year program, with funds coming from the city’s general fund. The wording of the contract is still being completed.

KCRA News said the program will target 50 young men, mostly black and Latino, identified as being responsible for much of the city’s gang violence. The program would create mentorship, education and job-training opportunities, as well as offer up to $1,000 cash per month for successfully meeting program goals.

The city believes it can reduce shootings and homicides by up to 50 percent over the next four years.

Everyone is not convinced that paying the gang members is going to stop the killings. One of Cadena’s friends, Allen Brown, said, “How’s the vote going to change anything? It’s up to the community to change. You know what I mean? It’s just senseless.”

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