SANTA ROSA (CBS SF) – Santa Rosa Mayor Ernesto Olivares’ Gang Prevention Task Force unveiled a four-year plan Wednesday morning to stop youth and gang violence and victimization.

Details of the initiative were disclosed just before the California Cities Gang Prevention Network’s annual two-day conference in Santa Rosa, which was happening Thursday and Friday.

The four-year plan updates the focus of the task force’s 2008-2012 strategic plan titled, “Reclaiming Our Youths for the Families, Schools, Communities and Futures.”

KCBS’ Jeffrey Schaub Reports:

The 2012-2016 plan’s goals include an awareness and education campaign about risk factors affecting youth and the resources available to them; increasing gang prevention programs especially in high-risk neighborhoods; intervention services that create positive opportunities for high-risk and gang-involved youth and their families; and increasing law enforcement efforts against serious and violent crime and enhancing the sense of safety reported by the public.

The plan’s goals also include ensuring successful re-entry of youth and adults in the community after incarceration; assisting other communities in the region to address the mobile nature of youth violence and gangs; and efforts to track the affects and results of the gang prevention programs.

“This is a community-wide issue that requires a community response,” said Olivares, a retired police lieutenant.

The gang prevention plan’s comprehensive approach involves law enforcement, residents, gang prevention specialists, private businesses and organizations and schools.

“There is no one reason why youth get involved in gangs, and no one way to get them out,” Olivares said.

John Calhoun, a senior consultant with both the National League of Cities’ Institute for Youth, Education and Families, and the U.S. Department of Justice’s Office of Justice Programs, said getting schools involved and getting guns off the streets are critical to gang prevention efforts.

“Everyone must be involved. Isolation is a killer,” Calhoun said.

Calhoun recalled a statement a youth made to him more than 30 years ago: ‘I would rather be wanted for murder than not wanted at all.’

“Kids feel unlovable and disconnected,” Calhoun said.

The U.S. Justice Department is aware of the gang prevention programs in Santa Rosa and San Jose, and those principles are being applied to gang prevention methods in large U.S. cities, Calhoun said.

Gail Ahlas, Superintendent of the Roseland School District, said the strategic plan enables her to respond to gang presence in the district’s schools.

“If I know a student who appears to be influenced by the gang culture, I know who to call. If a gang member is influencing third, fourth or fifth-graders, I know who to call. Ray,” she said referring to Sgt. Rainer Navarro in the police department’s gang unit.

A quarter-cent sales tax provided in Santa Rosa’s Measure O funds help support police, fire and gang prevention and intervention for 20 years.

The estimated annual revenue from the tax is $7 million, and 20 percent goes to the Recreation and Parks department for gang prevention and intervention services.

The National League Of Cities’ Institute for Youth, Education and Families and the National Council on Crime and Delinquency organized a program in 2006, the California Cities Gang Prevention Network, to reduce gang violence.

Representatives from 13 California cities were to attend the two-day gang prevention and intervention conference in Santa Rosa.

The conference was not open to the public or the press, Santa Rosa’s marketing and outreach coordinator Adriane Mertens said.

Bay Area cities in the network include Santa Rosa, Oakland, Richmond, San Jose and San Francisco.

(Copyright 2012 by CBS San Francisco. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)


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