Flintridge Center’s Ricky Pickens walks the line

PASADENA – Ricky
Pickens walks a fine line between city officials and some of the city’s
toughest gang members.

Pickens’
balancing act is part of his role as director of intervention and prevention of
the Flintridge Center in Northwest Pasadena. And while his long-winded title
might look good on a business card, Pickens would prefer to be called a
violence interrupter – a person who works behind the scenes to prevent a
violent occurrence from spinning out of control.

 “If I get a
text from someone in the neighborhood, I go into work mode,” Pickens said.
“My first thought is how can we save a life.”

 On the surface,
his tactics might seem simple. Pickens is part of a handful of gang
interventionists in Pasadena who listen to the concerns of gang members, mediate
conversations between rival gangs and talk to men hardened by years on the
street. And, he admits, it takes a community to do the heavy lifting.

 “We all
work together in the community. There’s more than just me. We partner with the
Police Department and our community organizations.”

 Ultimately,
Pickens and others in his line of work want at-risk youth and their adult
mentors to think instead of reacting.

 “There is
an alternative to your first thought,” Pickens said.

 But while the
tactics may seem simple, the execution is a complicated dance. Pickens is often
the repository of sensitive and confidential information on the activities of
gangs in the Pasadena area. Some of that information will never been shared, he
said.

“I have to
sit on the information to save a life,” Pickens said.

 Go to the Pasadena Star-News for the rest of the story on Ricky Pickens.

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