SAN DIEGO, Calif. (KGTV) -- Elected officials, community activists, and law enforcement came together Monday to launch a new "Peace Movement" with the ambitious goal of ending violence in San Diego.
Organized by District 4 City Councilmember Monica Montgomery, the goal is to find solutions to address the underlying root causes of violence and build trust between police and the communities they protect.
"It doesn't happen overnight," Montgomery told 10News. "It's continued understanding. It's getting in places where we're uncomfortable. It's listening to things that maybe we don't agree with all the time. Those are the things that will help us understand each other."
San Diego Police Department chief David Nisleit said he's on board with the effort, specifically calling on people in communities beset by crime to come forward when they have information that could help investigators bring perpetrators to justice.
Some community members are reticent to contact police.
"We'll get there. There's no doubt in my mind we'll get there," Nisleit told 10News. "I'm going to focus on this as a positive step. We'll build those community partnerships. We'll work together. We're already doing that, we're just going to do it on a larger scale."
Another speaker at Monday's press conference launching the initiative was Bishop Cornelius Bowser. As a former gang member himself, Bowser has tried to take a leadership goal in bridging the divide between residents and law enforcement.
"I'm willing to lead the way and take those risks," Bower said. "But the struggle with me is when I try to do that, I need law enforcement to understand this and get my back. I need the community to understand this and get my back."
Bowser says building relationships with both sides means walking a fine line, as the very appearance of a strong relationship with either side could encourage distrust from the other. He says the important thing is having the right people at the table having real conversations.
He also believes developing trust will be a slow process. "You have to get one person at a time. You're not going to be able to go into a meeting and change 100 people in a meeting."
One part of the new "Peace Movement" initiative is getting rid of gang graffiti. The city joined an effort with SDG&E to cover up gang tags on electric boxes with murals featuring healing community themes.