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Community organization works to reduce gun violence in Bakersfield

City manager's office partners with local groups on Gun Violence Reduction Strategy
Posted at 12:39 PM, Mar 27, 2024
  • Video shows resources available through Garden Pathways to prevent gun violence.
  • Garden Pathways works with the city of Bakersfield to prevent gun violence before it happens in the community by offering mentoring and resources to at-risk people.

Reducing crime in your area before it happens is the work of Garden Pathways, a community organization dedicated to providing resources for at-risk populations to prevent violent crime.
Before the sirens and before officers are called, Garden Pathways works proactively to support marginalized communities and encourage people with a criminal history to change their life, people like Angelina Ibarra.

“I came from the neighborhood," she said. "I was involved in gangs. I was involved in selling drugs.”

Ibarra says she grew up around criminal activity and believed it was normal, adding she didn’t expect anything different for her life.

“You don’t think about, ‘Oh, one day I’m going to be a doctor or one day I’m going to be a firefighter.’ You don’t have those dreams because that’s not attainable,” Ibarra said.

She says she went to juvenile hall as a kid and eventually prison.

“I think I was in a point of my life where I was tired, and I needed something different," Ibarra recalled. "I didn’t know what that looked like, but Garden Pathways was there to show me.”

She worked with a mentor at Garden Pathways who she says helped her find a job and secure her own housing, something that made a big difference in turning her life around.

“We’re interested in who you are," Juan Avila, the Chief Operating Officer with Garden Pathways said. "Who are you as a human being, not what everybody else is painting you, not what’s on your rap sheet, we want to know what your dreams, desires are. We want to know what’s on your heart.”

Their works is a part of the the Gun Violence Reduction Strategy launched in 2022 by the city manager’s office.

In a statement to 23ABC, Joe Conroy with the city of Bakersfield says in part, “The strategy is working. It is important that we continue to work with our partners in the community to analyze the dynamics of violence in our City so we can best address the root causes of it. The City also plans to expand its efforts on implementing effective strategies focused on preventing youth violence by promoting positive youth development to effectively intervene, increase case solvability and break the cycle of violence.”

That’s something that means a lot for Lisa Aldana, one of the victim advocates with Garden Pathways.

She says her son was shot 7 times in an attempted robbery in 2017 and says it was difficult walking into Kern Medical not knowing how her son was doing.

“Is he going to live? What’s going to happen? How are we going to get through this?" Aldana remembers thinking.

Her son lived, and Aldana says she takes that experience with her as she walks into hospitals now to serve the families of victims involved violence and help prevent retaliation.

“I know what that parent feels like,” she said.

So far in 2024, the Bakersfield Police Department reports nine homicides and 46 shootings with 15 of those resulting in injuries.

Compared to the same time in 2023, BPD reported 10 homicides and 65 shootings and 24 of those resulted in injuries.

Now to keep those numbers down, Ibarra works with Garden Pathways because of her experience to provide meals, services like tattoo removal along with mentoring and classes.

“If I could help just one person turn their course of life for the good, I did my job,” Ibarra said.

For more information on the services Garden Pathways offers, you can visit their website.

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