Crime - Sacto 911

Minority groups unite following wave of South Sacramento robberies

South Sacramento community leaders have formed a new coalition to unite minority groups against violent robberies targeting local Asian American residents, as well as other issues in their neighborhoods.

Kim Williams, the director for Sacramento Building Healthy Communities, said the inspiration for the coalition came after she and other leaders noticed how discussions surrounding the wave of robberies often reinforced negative stereotypes about African American men. Several of the suspects in the robberies have been described by police as black males, she said.

“(Community members) did not want to pin African Americans and the Asian community against each other,” she said. “We want to work together because we know if we work together, we are so much stronger than when we are separate.”

Named the Unity Coalition, the alliance hopes to strengthen community ties with people in different racial groups living and working in the area and to address common issues they face. Problems for many community members includes high crime rates, as well as low access to social services, education and jobs, Williams said during a press conference in South Sacramento Thursday afternoon.

Pastor Les Simmons, a board member of the local faith-based group Sacramento ACT, also attended the conference. He said it was important to send a message of unity among different South Sacramento community groups.

“We have to be seen standing together,” he said. “Let’s be seen working on the issue of violence together.”

The Sacramento Police Department first announced a wave of such robberies on Sept. 9. The robberies were reportedly taking hold in South Sacramento and surrounding areas and targeted Asian American residents. Common traits in the robberies were that they often occurred late at night as the victim was exiting their vehicle, according to the police department.

Since then, local law enforcement agencies, community leaders and concerned residents have held a series of meetings to share safety information and to voice concerns about the robberies.

One major issue in combating the wave of robberies was disjointed communication between community groups, law enforcement and local leaders, said Councilman Eric Guerra, who attended several meetings and whose district falls where many of the crimes were being reported.

“We are making a stand to say that we have to work as a community to be able to tackle those major issues like crime, education and poverty, because we live in one neighborhood,” he said.

Guerra said that increased communication within the community has created positive change, evidenced by recent crime statistics. The Sacramento Police Department announced Oct. 6 that 20 arrests in connection to the South Sacramento robberies had been made. The Sacramento County Sheriff’s Department also said they arrested an additional 15 people and have seen a 77 percent reduction in the robberies within the unincorporated areas of the county since August.

The United Coalition is only in its beginning stages, according to Williams. She said that while she and other community leaders hope to get the coalition off the ground, the purpose of the group is to empower local residents to take action and work with law enforcement and government agenceis to effect change.

“Our goal is to get this started and then let the community take it and run with it,” she said.

The United Coalition’s next meeting is scheduled for 6 p.m. on Nov. 30 at the Fruit Ridge Community Collaborative Center, Williams said.

Nashelly Chavez: 916-321-1188, @nashellytweets

Related stories from Sacramento Bee