LAS VEGAS (KSNV MyNews3.com) --
Shootings, stabbings, murder are the calling cards of gang violence and all are on the rise in Las Vegas as police continue to fight back.
Police have been joined in their battle by a former gang member and a pastor.
This is the story of a former gangbanger named Sevin, who for years worked on the streets selling drugs, pimping women, and committing drive-by shootings. It's the story of an angry young man who had no remorse until death faced him in the eye.
Sevin, 32, grew up in a Sacramento, Calif., neighborhood. He is now a rapper with a message - Glorify God, not gangs.
“You don't realize what a cult it is,” he said.
He was initiated by his “homies” in to the Bloods gang when he was 13.
“It gets in your mind. It affects the way you think,” Sevin said.
His story is a similar one for many in gangs.
“Poverty plays a major factor in this. You grow up with nothing. I remember the first crime I committed it wasn't for the gang. It was because I got tired of people making fun of me because I had beat-up shoes,” Sevin said.
He was involved in all types of criminal activity ranging from selling drugs and committing robberies to pimping girls. Sevin did whatever was necessary to make money.
“I definitely regret the moments when something was wrong to do but I didn't say nothing. I definitely regret every time that my conscious was telling me don't do this but I did it anyway,” Sevin said.
After years of living the gang life, he went into a downhill spiral of depression.
“I had a gun and I put the gun in my face,” he said.
“I ended up pulling the trigger but I hadn't whatever me just being me absent minded praise God I never chambered a round.”
The gun, empty of bullets, was a defining moment in Sevin's life.
“I felt a love from God that I ain't never felt. It changed my heart,” Sevin said. “On Friday I was at school with a sack and a pistol and on Monday I was at school with a Bible.”
Today he works with Pastor Chris Chapel of Casa De Luz, which means House of Light.
“The youth we call them our Casa Kids and they are the kids of drug dealers, the addicts and they're running the streets and we provided a safe alternative to them,” said Pastor Chris Chapel.
Pastor Chapel opened this ministry four years ago to a skeptical neighborhood. He says since then the crime rate has dropped significantly.
“Narcotics 80 percent, violent crimes 64 percent. The homicide rate's been cut in half and it's because of the outreach that we do in this community,” Chapel said.
Even though leaving the gang life has been a process for Sevin, he uses his story to lead other young gang members away from the life of death and destruction.
“I got a couple of young homies that I'm really working with and I'm trying and I can tell they know what they're doing is wrong,” Sevin said. “They definitely don't want to suffer the ultimate consequence.”
He knows this path all too well.
“If you ask them ‘Do you want to die?' No. 'Do you want to do life in prison like your big homey?' No,” he said.
His work has helped many.
“We've seen hundreds of cats quit that lifestyle and doing what we do,” Sevin said.
Sevin says these kids need unconditional love and not someone looking from the outside and judging them,” he said. “Get out here and put your cleats on this turf and make a difference or shut up. If you ain't a part of the solution you are part of the problem.”