Anti-gang voice crosses the nation
Friday, June 22, 2012View full version
It is usually June when I see Dora Trevino. This time, this year, it was another beautiful early summer day when she dropped in to chat. I don’t know if it is coincidence or not, but June is a significant month for her. It was in a June day 13 years ago her son Augusto “Auggie” Trevino was shot by a Quincy teenager with gang ties.
Auggie was a well-liked student who loved his family. In the photo of Auggie you see most often, he is posing in his Quincy High School baseball uniform. Auggie was not a gang member, but he somehow got in a dispute with a 16-year-old who was, and was shot in the forehead. As he died, Dora made a promise to him, to do everything she could to fight this senseless violence, where teenagers are gunned down by deluded young men for no real reason.
Trevino kept her promise. She is still at it. She cannot stop. Marches, rallies, speeches, community committees, testimony on anti-gang legislation, formation of her group Stop the Violence in Our Communities, she is at work. In July she will travel to Albany, N.Y., to appear before the New York Gang Investigators Association annual training convention and tell her story again, and convey the message that started with Auggie’s death. It seems a police officer in Syracuse, N.Y., had come across her story. He had seen a film made by Trevino’s son Ricardo, telling of Auggie, the funeral, the rallies, and his blue hand print that shows, says Trevino, “My hand will always be over your heart.” The film ends with a gunshot, followed by a blank screen. Trevino was told an officer had shown the film at youth meetings and “You could hear a pin drop.”
It’s not that Trevino finds this easy. She isn’t anxious to relive the story again, and again. Even now her voice cracks when she speaks of it. “I could have given up a long time ago,” she said. “I try to stay low-profile, then I say I can’t.”
If it takes telling the story over and over, she will tell the story, over and over again. She preaches the importance of community involvement, of reaching out to children and showing them another way to live, another choice away from gangs. “We’re not going to get rid of gangs,” she said. “There will always be gangs. But we can limit them, by working as a community.” It takes coordination — faith groups, schools, community, law enforcement working together. She has supported state legislation to give police new means to fight gangs, legislation that has had mixed reception in the Legislature and finds opposition from civil libertarians. People must guard their rights, lawmakers are told. “Who speaks for the dead?” is Trevino’s response. There are few thoughts of rights and laws when the shots are fired.
Trevino is involved, serving on Quincy’s public safety committee, where there is good participation and youth input, she said. Quincy is a small community, and gang violence hits hard, she said. The city of Quincy is considering a new program, sending a trained police officer into the schools to spread an anti-gang message, an effort Trevino says could be valuable. Mayor Jim Hemberry also proposes that Quincy consider anti-gang ordinances similar to those passed in Yakima, which made an effort to compensate for the state Legislature’s lack of action. The ordinances would allow police to cite people fighting in public. People who commit crimes in city parks could be banned from them. Police could declare property a chronic nuisance if they must respond to many incidents there in a specified time. The city could fine property owners up to $500 a day if they do not correct public nuisances. The possibilities are being studied, reported the Quincy Valley Post-Register.
Meanwhile, Trevino still thinks about her promise to Auggie. “I never knew it would be this hard,” she said.
Tracy Warner’s column appears Thursdays and Fridays. He can be reached at email@example.com or 665-1163.