Money for Gang Prevention
Will billions of dollars combat street violence?
Thursday, June 28, 2007
Salinas could score some much-needed gang prevention and intervention cash from a myriad of new state and federal initiatives.
When legislators finalize the state’s budget this week, it will likely include $9.5 million designed to keep kids out of gangs and to rehabilitate existing gang members. About a third of the money would be distributed to Los Angeles and other cities overrun by street gangs in the Bay Area and Central Valley. Jurisdictions and nonprofit groups could also compete for a total of $6.5 million in grants.
Assemblywoman Anna Caballero, who chairs the Assembly Select Committee on Youth Violence Prevention, helped design the funding package. The former Salinas mayor says the City’s chances of receiving money look good. “Not only can the City apply for resources but the nonprofits can as well,” Caballero says.
She says the Silver Star Resource Center, a one-stop shop for youth and family services, could potentially receive funds because of its collaborative approach. The center includes the county’s Probation and Office of Education, and community organizations like Partners for Peace, which Caballero used to run.
Like many local gang prevention organizations, Silver Star runs on a tight budget. The program’s initial grant recently dried up and Bob Reyes, probation services manager, is on the hunt for $1 million to fully fund the center. Reyes says the possibility of state dollars is encouraging. “I think locally we should start getting together to prepare for this,” Reyes says, “so that way if it comes down, we are already ready and in line.”
Cities and organizations that apply for grants would have to come up with matching funds. It’s unclear how big the grants would be.
The package, which the Legislative Budget Conference Committee adopted on June 19, was a part of a rebuff to Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s multi-faceted proposal called the California Gang Reduction, Intervention and Prevention Program (CalGRIP). The $48 million initiative would, among other things, put tracking devices on gang leaders, give tax breaks to businesses that hire ex-gang bangers and install a state-wide, anti-gang coordinator.
The budget committee did approve nearly $5 million to fund part of the governor’s plan that creates “high-intensity gang areas.” Monterey County would be eligible for these grants because it ranks among the top 25 for gang-related homicides. The committee, however, axed the governor’s requests to send California Highway Patrol officers to gang-ridden cities and provide funding for additional school resource officers.
Caballero’s measure funds the gang czar but doesn’t provide any dollars for front-line police work. She says the state’s priority should be on reaching children before they join gangs.
“It’s a question of whether you continue to spend a lot of money on suppression programs that may not be effective,” Caballero says, “or do you start investing in programs that are really going to dry up the recruitment into gangs? I remain convinced that we need to do the latter.”
Bill Maile, a spokesman for the governor, says the two initiatives can be reconciled. “The governor’s office looks forward to working with legislators to hammer out the details of a final budget that reflects the priorities to combat gang violence,” Maile says.
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While he calls CalGRIP “a mile wide and an inch deep,” Salinas Mayor Dennis Donohue says there is one aspect of the governor’s plan that he wishes would have survived. Schwarzenegger wanted to set aside $6.4 million to create prison gang task forces and a centralized intelligence unit to quell crime plotting from behind bars. Donohue says this would have benefited Salinas since it is just north of Salinas Valley State Prison. “We are naive if we don’t think that our proximity to Soledad is part of the bend,” he says.
The County could receive additional money from the feds if Congress passes a bill authored by senators Dianne Feinstein and Orrin Hatch (R-Utah). The $1 billion initiative includes more than $411 million for gang prevention programs, creates more protection for witnesses and tougher penalties for gang members. The bill recently passed the Senate Judiciary Committee with bipartisan support. Next it goes to the Senate floor, but a Feinstein spokesman says no date has been set.
Donohue says he’s not waiting around for the state or feds to figure out a gang agenda. Last week he and Trevor Iida, community safety director, attended a conference in San Jose with leaders from 13 other cities. Salinas is part of the California Cities Gang Prevention Network, a new effort sponsored by the National League of Cities that allows the cities to share effective gang-fighting practices.
Sixteen years ago, San Jose reserved $1 million for gang prevention and intervention programs. Salinas recently followed its lead, setting aside the same amount of money for the same purpose. Over the next few months, Donohue and his alliance of business, law enforcement, education and faith representatives will hash out spending priorities and criteria for evaluating proposals. Donohue hopes the City can start funding programs in the fall. He also adds that the City will aggressively apply for state money. “We are going to put our grant writers to work,” he says, “that’s for darn sure.”
|THE WEEKLY TALLY||56||
The number of times Paris Hilton received headline coverage from the Fox News Network over a 30-day period ending June 13. Source: Source: Peter Phillips, professor of sociology at Sonoma State University (SSU), and Kate Sims, staff researcher with Project Censored, a media research group out of SSU.