A San Diego pastor is calling for an end to senseless violence after a series of murders in the Lincoln Park and Valencia Park neighborhoods.
Since Memorial Day, there have been three high-profile murders in the communities. On Tuesday, Pastor Ray Smith spoke publicly about his plan to end the violence, addressing the topic at the Tubman Chavez Center on Euclid Avenue.
"It's spreading through our whole city," said Smith. "And if we don't stop it here, there's no stopping it any place else. Certainly it affects all of us, those inland, outside. It affects churches, it affects businesses."
The pastor’s proposal is titled “Project Safe Streets Summer Pre-Employment Project,” a three and a half week training program that would teach workforce skills during the day and put teens to work cleaning up the community in the afternoon.
On May 25, a double-murder in Valencia Park took the lives of residents Joel Branch, 47, and his cousin, Gerald Morris, 48. The men were shot and killed on Branch’s patio during a holiday weekend celebration near 53rd and Groveland. Branch left behind seven children.
Police said the victims were hanging out with family members and friends when two men walked up to the group and started shooting.
That deadly shooting, along with the third murder of victim Clarence Edward Carllel III at a taco shop earlier this month, had led Pastor Smith and members of his congregation to call for change in the communities, including no more guns and more jobs.
Branch's brother, Johnnie, told NBC 7 the shooter took away a good part of the community in killing his brother. He agreed with the goal of the new program.
"I think it's a great opportunity to get youth off the streets so they don't get involved in crime and gangs and drugs and stuff like that," Johnnie said.
San Diego City Councilwoman Myrtle Cole, who represents the area, is making jobs and employment opportunities a focus of her administration, her office said.