Despite driving much of Aurora’s youth violence, the Latino community is largely absent from conversations – CBS Denver


AURORA, Colorado (CBS4)– Shot after shot after shot. The year 2021 has brought steady waves of youth gun violence to Aurora. It’s a feeling that cradles Mother Judith Padilla to the core.

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“I worry about my children,” Padilla said. “My fear is that I’ll leave her at school in the morning, and then maybe when I come back to pick her up, they’ll have done something to her. It’s my fear.

Padilla’s daughter, Kiara Aceves Padilla, is a sophomore at Aurora Central. She was in class when six students were shot dead in Nome Park on November 15, 2021.

“I feel like now, in the society we live in, it’s normalized,” Aceves Padilla said.

There are myriad reasons why we are seeing an increase in youth violence in the most diverse city in the state.

“We have young people who are much more aggressive because they come from homes where it’s a learned behavior, they may come from homes where it’s a generational gang connection,” said Christina Amparan, program manager of prevention of youth violence in the city of Aurora.

And it’s complex. Amparan and other advocates told CBS4 that it sometimes involves protection at school and in the community, or students with high-risk behaviors who commit crimes. It could also start with a fight at school or a rumor that escalates. Systemic inequalities also play a role.

“It’s important to overlay social structures and social processes that have been going on for a long time and how those interact with what we see,” said Beverly Kingston, director of the Center for the Study and Prevention at the University of Colorado. Violence.

The types of people who commit crimes within the Aurora community also vary.

“It’s young people between the ages of 10 and 24,” Amparan said. “And we know gang violence, gun violence primarily affects the black and brown community.”

Francisco Gallardo of the Gang Rescue and Support Project tells CBS4 that it also depends on which part of Aurora it’s talking about.

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“There are a lot of first-generation, second-generation, mostly immigrant Mexican kids, and Central American kids, and it depends on which part of Aurora,” Gallardo said. “There are definitely different points, because of so many apartment buildings, you have black youth and what they’re going through, even black refugees who are also committing crimes and being victims of crimes.”

Aurora Police Department data obtained by CBS4 shows that more young Latinos are involved in violence in the city than black youth. In 2021, there were 125 young Hispanic male victims of assault, compared to 101 young black male victims. In terms of crimes committed with juvenile firearms, 93 of the victims were Hispanic males and 51 were black males. And young Hispanic men saw 14 arrests for juvenile assault, nearly 1.5 times that of young black men, who saw 10. But there is an exception when it comes to arrests. Last year, black boys saw 16 arrests for gun crimes, compared to nine arrests for Hispanic boys.

“I think the city right now isn’t really putting a lot of stock, putting a lot of resources into the Latino community when it comes to violence,” Gallardo said.

While data shows that much of the youth violence in Aurora involves the Hispanic/Latino community, CBS4 found there was a disconnect when it came to reaching this group, and the city agrees.

“We need to do a better job involving the Latino voice,” Amparan said. “I think that’s been lacking in the past and we just need to make sure we’re aware of the violent behaviors that are having a huge impact on the Latino community.”

Padilla is one of the few Latino parents actively involved in youth violence events.

“Regularly there are very few Latinos who go to these events or meetings,” she said. “I think we’re often scared because of our legal status.”

As Padilla puts her fears aside to make her voice heard, she said there are many other reasons why Latino parents are reluctant to deal with the escalating violence and why they are largely absent from conversations, from language barriers to racism to distrust of law enforcement, and Gallardo agrees.

“They’re overworked or working a lot, or they’re afraid of being committed to the system,” Gallardo told CBS4. “There’s the issue of being able to be bilingual and talking to children and their families, but it’s also understanding the culture we’re dealing with.”

Another barrier Latin Americans face is a lack of understanding of how the American system works.

“Coming to the United States, they now have to deal with a very different law enforcement process, a very different social services system, an education system,” Amparan said. “It leads to the inability to connect or understand or even some level of fear to contact some of these organizations.”

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Colorado Crime Survivors Network founder Sharletta Evans told CBS4 that while the decades-long work of black leaders has been effective, reaching the Latino community can still be difficult. Evans said if there is a language barrier then that means the organization needs to invest in a translator, but culturally there is often a disconnect.

“We were referred to four families, and with these four families, the language barrier, we were unable to help these teenagers, we had to contact the young people to speak to the mother and vice versa with the mother and the father. and it was almost impossible to find them in one place,” Evans said. “It can be very difficult if even these parents want us to help their children.”

The Struggle of Love Foundation is one of many groups at the forefront of the issue in the city. Although the foundation recognizes that reaching Latinos is difficult, it is beginning to overcome some barriers by building relationships with Latino-led organizations.

“I think our organization has really been able to overturn some of those stereotypes, and some of those things that lead to mistrust because they see us doing so much for everybody, including the brunette,” said said Jason McBride, secondary violence prevention specialist. with the foundation.

Historically, many of the people leading the conversations about Aurora’s youth violence have been black, and many resources have been directed to the black community, even at the city level.

“As a society, we’ve had a lot of conversations about racial issues, and we just need to make sure that we expand those conversations to include other ethnicities in our community to include the Latino community,” Amparan said.

Gallardo said that while outreach to the Latino community begins with language, there is much more to reaching this disconnected group.

“Right now it has a very black and white binary, which is good, young black people and black families deserve it, but so do Latino families,” he said. “Having a leaflet in Spanish is not enough, you have to be bicultural, you have to talk about our values ​​to reach this community. “

Gallardo said it started with meeting the Latin American community where they were.

“They need to be able to reach us in a way that makes sense to us culturally,” he said. “If it’s in school, cool, if it’s in churches, that’s where to go.”

With numbers growing, advocates believe we need to not only understand the Latino community socially, economically, and politically, but also from a bicultural and bilingual perspective, which includes training Latino leaders. -Americans.

“You’re always going to miss your key populations unless you really want to learn the cultural skills you need to reach people and engage them,” said David Bechhoefer, a researcher at the Center for the Study at the University of Colorado. and violence prevention.

In 2021, the police department and city invested more than $300,000 in youth violence intervention and prevention, and this year they hope to top that by investing more than $500,000. While they don’t currently have anything specifically aimed at the Latino community, Amparan said all of their services and events are now in Spanish. City funding is divided and given to many local organizations that address youth violence.

“Who are these Latino voices that we can help elevate, to make sure they’re at the table that they’re facilitating these conversations,” she said.

Amparan said the city is working to better include the Latin American community through a youth advisory council that was formed in May 2021. So far this year, the council has organized service projects quarterly and case management meetings. In June, the group is also planning a united march for Gun Violence Awareness Week.

“They hire some of their Latino friends, some of their Black friends, some of their Asian friends. They recognize that it is important and that it is essential for us to have a different representation at the table,” Amparan said. “And what also happened was that their Latino parents also started reaching out to other parents to participate in some of our pop-up events, or an event to create a parent council.”

Amparan said the more they continue to give Latino parents the opportunity to play a role in an environment they feel comfortable in, the more they will be able to engage and activate other parents. And to move forward, Gallardo believes all stakeholders must also recognize that there is a power imbalance in Aurora.

“A lot of times we just take care of our own group and don’t support each other, but we have to really engage and really work with our kids because they do things together and they do a lot of stuff to each other,” Gallardo said.

Because ultimately, youth violence impacts every community in Aurora.

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“We have to learn from each other, it starts with us adults being that example and wanting to know,” Evans said.

Advocates like McBride have said the Latino community has a lot more in common with the black community than meets the eye.

“Your kids are dying, our kids are dying in exactly the same way, a lot of the time under the exact same circumstances, so let’s find out together,” he said. “We’ve been working on this separately for far too long, it’s time to bring our resources and our minds together.”

Padilla hopes that with unity, everyone can help minimize the youth violence that continues to plague the city.

“We have to learn how to work better together, whatever our race, whatever language we speak, because we need each other, we need this connection, this communication,” she said. declared.


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