Community Violence Prevention Summit held to brainstorm solutions to keep gangs out of neighborhoods

SAN DIEGO - Hundreds of people participated in the annual Community Violence Prevention Summit in Chollas Creek.

Twenty years ago, Larry Blackman never thought he would be part of a solution to get people out of gangs.

A lifelong gang member, Blackman lost a number of friends and spent years in prison for his involvement with drugs, guns and violence.

"I escaped death on many occasions," he added. "There have been many attempts on my life. I know firsthand what it's like to be in gangs and make the wrong decisions when you're running the streets."

That is, until he discovered a spiritual enlightenment. Now, he is back on the streets in his neighborhood. Only this time, he is trying to convince other gang members to get out and do something positive.

"You have to be that living example," he said. "They have to see that change, then that gives them something to shoot for."

On Saturday, Blackman joined law enforcement officials and community activists at the Community Violence Prevention Summit to brainstorm and come up with solutions to keep gangs out of their neighborhoods. It is a partnership that the San Diego Police Department says is working.

In 2012, they say there were 12 gang-related murders. In 2013, there were only three.

Rosa Lozada, who is with Harmonium and was involved with organizing the summit, added, "It's about knowing the resources and efforts that are there and being part of this collectively because that's how we're going to make that largest change."

It is an effort that gives middle school students like Kassandra Elias, who attended the summit, hope that gangs will no longer be a threat in the future.

"I know there's hope to give these people and get more people informed to teach others to prevent violence," she said.

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