San Bernardino's mayor says hope, guidance will help bring peace
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10:00 PM PDT on Sunday, June 3, 2007
SAN BERNARDINO - After a week that saw a 19-year-old newlywed gunned down in his car and three people shot by police following a gun-store robbery, Mayor Pat Morris challenged residents to help "return hope to our great city."
He called on residents to get involved in their communities and help the city's youth avoid crime.
"We have to give the next generation hope," Morris said. "Be involved because it is the right thing to do. Return hope to our great city."
In a speech at St. Paul's United Methodist Church on North Arrowhead Avenue, the mayor denounced the prevalence of illegal handguns on the city's streets, advocated for prison and parole reform and said increased crime-prevention efforts are needed to stem the tide of violence in San Bernardino.
"To break the cycle of criminality, to bring peace, you have to give people hope," Morris said as part of the church's "Peace With Justice Sunday."
The event was part of an annual effort by Methodist churches around the world to raise money and promote peace.
Battling San Bernardino's crime has been Morris's top priority since taking office last year. He launched a crime-fighting plan called Operation Phoenix and pushed for a sales-tax hike to fund additional police officers.
While overall violent crime has dropped by about 20 percent, Morris said homicides remain one of the toughest crimes to prevent.
On Wednesday, Julio Cesar Ornelas, 19, of San Bernardino, died from wounds he suffered after being shot on May 27. Ornelas was just two weeks removed from his wedding. He was the city's 23rd homicide victim this year.
Meanwhile, on Friday night, four people robbed Turner's Outdoorsman on Orange Show Road, stealing dozens of weapons and leading police on a high-speed chase into Highland.
The chase ended in a gunbattle, and police fatally shot two of the robbers and wounded a third. Police arrested the fourth suspect with the help of a helicopter, a recent addition to the department.
Morris on Sunday said the helicopter is a "necessary but costly" crime-fighting tool. He said that when he took office, the budgets for the city's library and parks and recreation department had not increased in two decades. Those programs, the mayor said, can help keep the city's young people from entering a life of crime.
In an interview after his speech, Morris said the addition of agents from the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, announced Friday, will prove valuable in the fight to remove illegal guns from the city.
Morris declined to speak about the specifics discussed between the city and bureau, but said, "They are true experts in taking guns off the street."
The Rev. Jose A. Vindel, St. Paul's pastor, said he felt touched by the mayor's message. He wants the church to follow up on Morris's challenge, Vindel said.
"It is my hope that at St. Paul's we will do our best to truly get involved," he said. "There is so much need for justice and mercy."
Reach Duane W. Gang at 909-806-3062 or dgang@PE.com
BS Ranch Perspective
Mayor Morris has done some great work, however he still feels that he is failing because the people of San Bernaridino has not got on Board the Program Operation Phoenix to reduce the crime in San Bernardino!! Morris Asks people in San Berdo to pray for Hope, and give into hope.
Prayer is something that is great but the person that is giving the prayer has to believe 100% in the process of prayer and they have to believe in trust in their Mayor their Leader. He has done great wonderful things in San Bernardino, and he as been a true leader for that City. I am happy that he has taken the reins and ran all the way with them. I hope that Morris will take this addition on his plate and solve that problem, as well. He has been the breath of Fresh Air that San Berdo has needed...