Uptick in Santa Maria homicides

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Partiicipants leave the Santa Maria Foursquare Church on Sunday to embark on a prayer walk fillowing a series of shootings in the city.

Over 100 Santa Maria citizens marched for peace in January. (Photo by Janene Scully / Noozhawk)

The working class city of Santa Maria (pop. 102,216) has seen a huge uptick in homicides in recent years, and 2016 is not off to a good start. Six people have already been killed this year alone. The victims include a 15-year-old and three 17-year-olds, all male.

Santa Maria Homicides — By Location

Map: Janene Scully, Noozhawk

A significant number of them are gang related, according to Santa Maria Police Chief Ralph Martin. Law enforcement officials, however, have had a difficult time finding witnesses to speak up.

“I think they are fearful of what will happen to their loved ones if they cooperate with law enforcement,” said Janene Scully, reporter for Noozhawk. “They’re used to handling things on their own.”

Last fall, community members began meeting to come up with ways to stop the violence. The coalition of school, city, organization and church members is called One Community Action Group.

“It’s not just a law enforcement issue. It’s a community issue, and the community is reacting,” said Scully.