Thursday, April 22, 2010

Friends Take Friends to Salinas

Our editorial review board talked about promoting a "Take a Friend to Salinas" campaign.

The discussion was sparked by a letter to the editor from a Carmel woman who declared that she would stop seeing a dentist she admired in Salinas because of all the violence. Several of us live in Salinas; I've spent the majority of my career at The Herald in our Salinas bureau. Many of us have children who played — or who are playing — youth sports in Salinas. My own son played PONY baseball for a Salinas team.

Now comes word that Monterey PONY softball teams won't play in Salinas, that neutral ground is being sought to play Salinas-Monterey games. Pacific Grove PONY is considering a similar move.

Perhaps it's my familiarity with the city that makes me feel this way, but I've never felt in danger in Salinas. I worried myself sick when my kids were finally old enough to drive and had to navigate through certain areas of Prunedale, but I've never feared for their safety in Salinas. Of course, I do believe the dental patient and the PONY parents are overreacting, but I don't blame them for their concern.

It is frightful to think that a 6-year-old can be killed by a random bullet while he's standing in his kitchen. And that a 10-year-old girl was shot in the leg by another stray bullet while walking with her mother. The constant drumbeat of news about the horrible violence that emanates out of Salinas eventually takes its toll.

But risks lurk everywhere — and the risk of infusing a child with misplaced paranoia can also be damaging.

As I write this, a huge phalanx of law enforcement officers is sweeping through Salinas to round up the most powerful gang members in the Salinas area. The governor and Attorney General Jerry Brown joined local law enforcement officials to discuss the results of the raid, which has been named Operation Knockout.

Whether the sweep will make a difference in out-of-towners' impression of Salinas remains to be seen.

In the meantime, those of us who know and admire the city would love to take the fearful to Salinas someday, to take you to dinner, to visit the schools and churches and to shop with the local merchants who deserve our support.

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