Walt Shepperd's City Agenda Report 2010: Police Chief on Safety

The RICO (federal racketeering statutes) approach to the gang situation seems to have had success, but drawn controversy. What is the balance there, and where are you now with the gang situation?

We've made progress, but we have a lot of work ahead of us. For years we buried our heads in the sand when it came to this issue. Unfortunately in those time periods, the people involved in the gangs became extremely comfortable engaging in all types of behavior out in our community. It wasn't until (former police chief) Dennis DuVal and our District Attorney Bill Fitzpatrick and a host of people around them were brave enough to stand up and say, "We have a gang problem, and we're going to address it." Then Gary Miguel came behind them and said, "We do have a gang problem, and we're going to continue to address it, but we're going to address it in a more specialized fashion."

Hence the Gang Violence Task Force was formed. That process is going to continue on, because when you look at the violence that takes place in our community, likely you'll find that the people who are firing off the guns have some type of gang affiliation. It's important to keep that pressure on until people realize that you're not going to be able to fire off a gun in our community without having to deal with law enforcement, and the citizens of this community stand up and say, "We've had enough of this."

Is there any way to get control over the proliferation of guns, and the seemingly easy availability?

Not right away. This is a mentality of morals and values eroding over the years, and it's going to take some time for us to build momentum back up. Our young people are exposed to a lot of different things on a daily basis. I often tell people that when you look at a young person, adults tend to take for granted that that young person comes from a safe environment, and hasn't been exposed to a lot of things that are going to have a lasting effect on them--what occurs in their households, their neighborhoods, what they see on TV, in the movies, what happens in the malls, what they're exposed to when they play videogames.

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