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Mayor Johnson’s gang prevention initiative moves forward

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Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson unveiled the preview of his Strategic Plan for Gang Prevention (SPGP) this past Monday morning in the Hearing room of the Historic City Hall.

“I am committed to a paradigm shift away from only enforcement and incarceration with more emphasis put toward prevention and intervention,” stated Johnson during his opening remarks.

“There is a lot of frustration in the community,” stated Johnson as he referenced the recent community meeting in the Del Paso Heights neighborhood in response to the recent death of Tyrone Smith.

Smith died in the custody of the Sacramento Police Department in the aftermath of the shooting of a Twin Rivers officer after a routine traffic stop in Del Paso Heights.

Johnson invited members of the community whose ideas he incorporated into the formulation of the SPGP to the Historic City Hall for an update on the progress of his Gang Prevention Initiative (GPI).

The audience was filled with representatives from various community based social welfare agencies, community based advocacy groups, and was sprinkled with a few concerned citizens including former gang members who now serve as youth role models and participate in gang intervention activities.

The GPI was formed in response to several high profile gang related shootings that occurred in Sacramento during 2010.

Throughout 2011, community input was gathered at neighborhood meetings held throughout Sacramento. That input, the basis for the SPGP, combined with the participation of the Mayor’s Gang Prevention Task Force, resulted in a four-page draft document which contains a message from the mayor and lays out a framework that includes community core values, vision, strategic focus areas and sought after outcomes.

The plan also details six distinct goals along with strategies to implement them.

The three leading goals of the SPGP include increasing school based support and enrichment activities to facilitate student success, strengthening the community’s capacity to address gang involvement and provide positive alternatives, and developing the relationships between law enforcement agencies and the community throughout the region.

The three other goals detailed in the SPGP include plans to initiate a community campaign to develop neighborhood pride and vitality, to develop a coordinated approach to leverage, connect, and evaluate resources in implementing the Mayor’s Gang Prevention Task Force goals and objectives, and to establish an integrated method to effectively transition [former] inmates back into the community.

Johnson expects the plan to be finalized within the next 30 days, but wanted to preview its progress with stakeholders in order to obtain feedback and make any necessary revisions to the SPGP before it is put into final form.

The atmosphere of guarded optimism was tempered by an undercurrent of genuine concern regarding the plan’s details.

As the lead of the Mayor’s Gang Prevention Task Force and the host of the event, Khaalid Muttaqi, had to cut off questions from the audience after each of the four presenters.

The event, which began at 10:00 a.m. and ended at 11:55 a.m., was intended to be a 90-minute formal presentation. Without Muttaqi’s efforts to hold off questions and comments from the audience, the event would have run well past noon.

“More successful ex-gang members need to be involved in this process,” stated community activist and American River College student Alex Hampton.

One of the community values included in the SPGP that was emphasized by Mayor Johnson during his presentation is that “We cannot arrest our way out of this problem.”

“It sounds good, but I’m the type of person who’s on the concrete,” said Barry Accius, motivational speaker and CEO of Voice of the Youth, a non-profit organization which provides mentoring services to youth ages 11 to 25.

“There has to be a strong component of prevention and direct intervention in the SPGP. Otherwise, the community will just continue its policy of enforcement and incarceration,” stated Accius.

Steve Streeter, a retired former law enforcement official who now mentors and refers community services to youthful victims of violent crimes in his role as the case manager for the Wraparound Project at the University of California Davis Medical Center, couldn’t have agreed more.

“Funding streams need to be developed from the community to support all of the programs included in the SPGP or kids will continue to fall between the cracks and perish,” stated Streeter.

Task Force Lead Muttaqi, who works at the City of Sacramento Parks and Recreation Department as one of its Neighborhood Resources Coordinators, admitted during his presentation of the details of the SPGP that there were no dedicated resources for the plan at this time.

In 2008, the Sacramento City Council voted 5-4 against a proposal for a quarter of a cent increase in sales tax for combating gangs. If passed by the City Council, the item would have been placed on the November ballot for voters to approve or disapprove.

Several audience members questioned the failure of the SPGP to formally address issues involving female gang members. Others expressed their concerns with the lack of focus on parental involvement in the overall plan.

Lt. Bill Champion of the Sacramento Police Department took the dais and touted the achievements of the SPD’s Ceasefire Strategy during 2011. He attributed the reduction of gang related violence in Oak Park, Del Paso Heights and the Mack Road area to the successful implementation of the strategy.

Noticeably absent from his remarks was any mention of traditional gang related criminal activities such as drug dealing, possession of weapons and theft related crimes including robbery and burglary, as well as gang related involvement with prostitution.

Outspoken and passionate community activist Rhonda Erwin directed several pointed and difficult questions to the speakers during their presentations.

Although Erwin is well known for being publically critical of various aspects of Mayor Johnson’s administration, after the meeting adjourned, Erwin stated simply, “Job well begun.”

To obtain a copy of the draft of the Strategic Plan for Gang Prevention, to provide input or for more information, contact Khaalid Muttaqi via email at Kmuttaqi@cityofsacramento.org.

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