WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) – With Wichita police confirming that several deadly shootings in the last week could be gang-related, a former gang member is sending a blunt message to the community after seeing an increase of people wanting to get out of gangs.
There are dozens of photos from unity events and vigils that Beni Santibanez, founder of Hope 4 Da Hood, Inc., has attended in efforts to one-day end gang violence.
“I seen all the graffiti,” said Santibanez. “I seen how run down the community was. I seen how much hurt and brokenness and hopelessness was in my community and it broke my heart.”
Santibanez said he was part of a gang in the 1990’s but luckily was given a wake up call from God.
“We were pretty much involved in the same stuff that you see out here today. At the time, I was rolling with some pretty heavy hitters, so I ran,” said Santibanez. “I didn’t listen to what he said because I thought they were going to kill me. In 2009, he renewed that call.”
He said that is when he started going to local neighborhoods hoping to make a difference.
“I have friends in the grave,” Santibanez. “I got friends doing life. I have friends that have PTSD from the lifestyle.”
Santibanez said he understands the mindset that many gang members have because he lived it. But, he has a clear message for those still involved, do something else with your time.
“I know some of you may be dealing with some anger, some of you dealing with some rejection,” said Santibanez. “Some of you are trying to make a name for yourself, so you’re trying to find some type of purpose in what you’re doing. But I want to tell you, there’s no purpose in it.”
Member of Hope 4 Da Hood, Inc. are given support and guidance to safely get off the streets and get into a church or other positive activity.
Santibanez encourages gang members to consider a way out. He said it could save them from jail time or even death.
“You’re walking into five o’clock traffic blindfolded,” said Santibanez. “You don’t know the death and destruction that will happen. It causes a chain of events where the drama never stops.”
If you or someone you know would like to talk to Santibanez or get more information about Hope 4 Da Hood, Inc., click here or call (316) 993-6649.
Wichita police said three criminal homicides have been linked to gangs so far in 2020.
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