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Laurie Ender: Anti-Gang Task Force fights to keep streets, youth safe

Live from City Hall

Posted: February 26, 2009 11:10 p.m.
Updated: February 27, 2009 4:55 a.m.
 
As community members, we value the safety of our city and understand that it takes a great deal of collaboration to make Santa Clarita a great place to live, work and play. Our world today is riddled with crime, gangs and individuals who see our possessions, lifestyle and even children as a means to their gain. The city works hard to keep this kind of criminal activity off our streets and away from our community, and the City/Sheriff Anti-Gang Task Force proved this in its 2008 yearly report.

Since 1991, the city's Anti-Gang Task Force (AGTF) has worked to end gang violence and crime in Santa Clarita through partnerships, proactive programming and networking. In 2008, it partnered with COBRA, the Sheriff's department Gang and Juvenile Violence Crime Unit, which works with local probation and parole officers. The program made 17 gang-related arrests and added "Frank Unit" patrol cars - special police vehicles that respond exclusively to gang-related calls. Additionally, the department conducted "Operation Community Shield," which resulted in the detainment of 21 local active foreign-national gang members.

The Gang Outreach Committee, formed in 2007 as a subcommittee of the Anti-Gang Task Force, reached out to hundreds of local youth in 2008. Group members hosted gang awareness presentations at local youth facilities in Santa Clarita. The Committee implemented POWER (Peers on the Way to Everlasting Recovery) - a male mentoring program held at the city's Newhall Community Center and high risk youth were also able to find employment through the Youth Employment Services (YES) program, a city-funded task force program.

Gang Outreach Committee members also assisted with the formation of the Valle Del Oro Neighborhood Committee, which hosted a "Cultural Walk" to foster cultural sensitivity and understanding among neighbors. It also worked with residents to decrease neighborhood nuisances by reporting graffiti and illegally parked vehicles, and saw that resident requests for increased lighting were approved by the city. Committee and task force members are currently working to form a similar committee at other venues in the city.

The 2008 Mayor's Public Safety Program also assisted in crime deterrence during "Gang Awareness Month" in August with the "Save our Youth" violence prevention presentation. To help paint a vivid picture for local youth, two former gang members whose lives were adversely affected by gang violence (and are now in wheelchairs) spoke to Santa Clarita teens about the dangers of gangs.

City Community Services staff also submitted a grant application to the Office of Emergency Services Gang Reduction, Intervention and Prevention Program requesting $500,000 in funding to decrease gang-related crime. If received, the grant will be used to promote gang suppression and education and implement the POWER program.

Our local Anti-Gang Task Force is set to make yet another positive mark on the community in 2009. Members will share strategies and collaborate with local residents and agencies to reduce gang-related crime. They are also working with local colleges to find mentors for youth and young adults who are at risk.

You may wonder, "What makes a child at risk?" The truth is any one of our kids could be affected by gang violence and persuasion if we do not fight to prevent it. By strengthening community relations and making its presence known, the task force's message reached thousands of residents last year - and will continue to do so in 2009.

Laurie Ender is a Santa Clarita City Councilwoman. "Live from City Hall" is a column provided to The Signal by the city of Santa Clarita. Her column reflects her own views and not necessarily those of The Signal.

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