OAK PARK – A local minister is gathering the faithful for a battle he says they can’t afford to lose.

Bishop Ron Allen, of the International Faith-Based Coalition, is taking on crime in the city and is calling on other area clergy to also take an active role. He points to crime in areas like Del Paso Heights, Meadowview, Rancho Cordova and plans to start the endeavor in Oak Park.

The effort, dubbed “Bridging The Gap,” has set an Oak Park Summit for Monday, August 13. The event is set to run 6:00-8:00 p.m. at the Sacramento Food Bank and Family Services building, located at 3333 Third Avenue. There will be participation from Sacramento Police Chief Rick Braziel and U.S. Attorney Ben Wagner.

Bishop Allen said he was asked by Chief Braziel to get faith-based leaders involved. Allen says getting the community and local law enforcement on the same page, working toward the same goal is key.
“If we can bridge that gap, we’re going to see great change,” he said, adding that it makes sense to have clergy at the forefront of the community policing effort.

“They know what’s going on in their community,” Allen said.

Chief Braziel said he shares Bishop Allen’s belief in the faith-based community’s ability to improve Sacramento’s neighborhoods.

“By working together, with the wisdom, influence, advice and partnership of our faith-based community leaders, we can create a safer community,” Chief Braziel wrote in a letter to Allen.
Allen says the Coalition will work with members of individual neighborhoods to assess what their crime prevention needs are and see to it that they get the appropriate training and resources to address those needs.

If the collaboration is to be successful, local law enforcement must be truly committed to the work ahead and must also get beyond a level of mistrust held by many African Americans.

“We want police officers to be seen in another light, instead of someone who just comes in banging heads and arresting people,” Bishop Allen said.

He believes the community can work together with law enforcement and still also hold them accountable for creating safe neighborhoods for all residents, regardless of where they live. He also urges members of the community not to be complacent about crime in their areas.

“It doesn’t have to be that way. When did it become common to have high crime in our areas?”

Allen said the goal is to empower people and help change “community norms.” Doing so, he said, will bring about a drop in gangs, drug abuse, and murders.

“Our focus is on prevention. We know that there are gangsters out there already; we know that there are drug dealers out there already. We’re going to focus on the prevention side. We’ve got to get to the kids in the community, then we’ll see a change,” he said.

Bishop Allen he expects participation and support from area church leaders at All Nations Church of God In Christ, Shiloh Baptist Church, the Nation of Islam, Immaculate Conception Church, and Blessed Faith, among others.

“That’s what makes this coalition so significant. We’re reaching out to everyone.”

By Genoa Barrow
OBSERVER Senior Staff Writer