Karli Thorstenson, Community Health Promotion Specialist, Health and Human Services Agency, North County Regions
Laurie Hauf, a Deputy District Attorney for the County of San Diego and a lifelong North County resident, is leading the way for improved collaboration among gang prevention partners along the Highway 78 corridor. From Oceanside to Escondido, schools, civic leaders, law enforcement, and non-profit organizations are working together to protect youth from the lure of gangs while providing hope and opportunity to those ready to leave the gang lifestyle.
Hauf is known to speak quietly and exude calm with an inner steeliness that makes for being a tough prosecutor.
“She walks softly but carries a big stick,” said Agner Medrano, a pastor with Victory Outreach and a North County Gang Commissioner, referring to Hauf’s strength and compassion.
As a young girl, Hauf’s family moved 11 times in 11 years throughout North County, but regardless of the constant change, she was determined to go to college and attend law school. At the San Diego District Attorney’s office, Hauf found her calling in court, caring for victims and their families while still respecting defendants and advocating to address underlying causes of violence.
In 2015, Hauf was appointed to the North County Gang Commission, which was started in 2008 by former Board Supervisors Bill Horn and Pam Slater-Price as a resource to address gang issues in this region. As the youngest member of the Commission, Hauf shook things up by working to bring more partners together, increasing connections with members of the community, and conducting Town Halls to gather resident input. Hauf, now the Commission’s chair, has plans to keep strengthening the impact and value of the Commission by bringing in new leadership that is representative of North County communities.
“She truly invests her time and energy to understand other people’s struggles despite their past or background,” said Jimmy Figueroa, a fellow Gang Commissioner and Program Manager of Vista Community Clinic’s Resilience Community Mentoring Program.
With Hauf at the helm of the North County Gang Commission, Figueroa says, “her passion and knowledge about our community has transformed it into an agent of hope.”
Hauf, in partnership with the County of San Diego’s Health and Human Services Agency, spearheaded the 2019 Building Better Futures Summit, held on February 5th at the North Inland Live Well Center in Escondido. The Summit provided innovative tools, strengthened connections, and provided motivation to the more than 200 participants who are committed to providing services and resources to at-risk youth in North County.
After welcoming remarks from Supervisor Kristin Gaspar, the Summit featured an emotional and inspirational keynote from Azim Khamisa, founder of the Tariq Khamisa Foundation. Speaking about the healing power of forgiveness and peace, Khamisa told his story of how gang violence killed his son, which caused Khamisa to embark on his own personal journey to forgive and provide a redemptive opportunity to the man who shot his son.
As the emcee of the summit, Medrano, now a good friend and colleague of Hauf’s, introduced her as the “OG,” or, in this case, an “Opportunity Giver.” Throughout her career, Hauf has worked on a variety of serious felony cases, including the prosecution of the gang member who killed Catherine Kennedy, an innocent bystander who was struck by a stray bullet as she was driving home from church in 2017.
“There are some cases that will never leave you,” said Hauf. “This is one of those cases. It reminded me there is such a fierce ripple effect of one person’s violence choices.” After the trial, Hauf received a letter from the juvenile co-defendant saying that Hauf had changed his life. “Ms. Kennedy’s family’s decision to love and the juvenile’s decision to turn his life around made me realize there is still a force for good that can come from it all.”