They March for Peace in Pacoima

For most of his life Luis Garcia walked the streets getting into all kinds of trouble, and doing and selling drugs.

“I grew up in the ghetto. I was a product of the environment,” said the 28-year-old.

But a few years back, someone reached out to him.

Garcia says today he’s cleaned up. He’s also very involved with the Victory Outreach church of Van Nuys. And last Saturday, Oct. 25, Garcia joined several dozen people who walked the streets of Pacoima to try to do for others what someone did for him.

“If nobody stands up and does outreach to the community, a lot of people are hopeless and don’t know any other way,” Garcia said. “I was a drug addict, and someone reached out to me and changed my life.

“Jesus gives hope to those who are lost and directionless,” Garcia added. “In about a year I went from selling drugs in the street to working with youth and helping to fund a brand new church.”

More than 100 people walked from Hubert Humphrey Park in Pacoima to the LAPD Foothill Division office, spreading the word about how God has helped them escape the addictions, violence and problems they once thought insurmountable.

Cristina Talavera, a Pacoima resident, came to the march with her six daughters. She said she and her husband were involved in drugs and alcohol, and headed for divorce. Late last year her oldest daughter Jasmine Navarrete, 18, began attending a Victory Outreach church service at Hubert Humphrey Park every Tuesday night without telling her parents.

Talavera, thinking her daughter was sneaking around with a boyfriend, began checking up on her and, little by little, began attending the services as well.

She said she has now stopped drinking and doing drugs, and that “the church has made a huge change.”

That’s why she and her family came to support the organizers and “to help with the peace that we need here” in the city and the community.

“We’re no longer causing chaos. We’re bringing light,” said Pastor Karl Cruz of Victory Outreach of the Northeast San Fernando Valley, one of the march organizers. “We try to do it every quarter, to continue to promote peace and stand against drugs, violence and domestic violence in the community.

“The last four years there’s been a decrease in violence and we want to continue to do outreach and be vigilant. We’re trying to be proactive instead of being reactive,” Cruz continued. “This way we keep the community aware that we have peace and it’s very fragile. We’re going to be in the bad guys’ face and that we are out there.”

Capt. Ernest Eskridge, Foothill Division commander, said efforts like the march help bring the community closer and spread a positive message.

“Crime is down 15 percent in Pacoima; that’s the highest reduction in the city. But we’re not doing it by ourselves,” said Eskridge, while the station was hosting an open house showcasing their new landscape and other improvements around the station.

“It takes an effort from the community. This helps us continue to prevent crime.”

Ed. note: A man was shot and critically wounded in a parking lot in Pacoima on Monday, Oct. 25. The shooting occurred near Arleta Avenue and Laurel Canyon Boulevard, said Los Angeles Police Officer Drake Madison told City News Service.

The victim drove until he reached a McDonald’s restaurant at Van Nuys and Laurel Canyon boulevards about 3:45 p.m., Madison said.

The victim was rushed to a hospital, Madison said.