Mayor Dennis Donohue picks Police Cmdr. Trevor Iida as community safety director.
Thursday, March 15, 2007
Despite its daily struggle to control gang violence, Salinas doesn’t fund any programs geared to keep kids out of gangs and rehabilitate young criminals. Mayor Dennis Donohue says it’s time for the City to address that fundamental failing.
Starting next fiscal year, Donohue says, the City should invest at least $1 million to fund gang intervention and prevention programs. While the Salinas Police Department and the Monterey County Gang Task Force do a good job suppressing crime, he says, “this is a community that is weak in intervention in terms of the breadth of our programs.”
Following a surge of recent shootings, Donohue is advancing his gang-intervention strategy. It begins with the creation of a position to ensure that city departments work together to prevent gang violence. Donohue has selected Police Cmdr. Trevor Iida to fill the new post of Community Safety Director. The City Council is expected to confirm the appointment on Tuesday, March 20. The council plans to fund the job, along with an economic development position, using $1 million set aside last month.
On March 27, Donohue will host a town hall meeting at Sherwood Hall to introduce Iida and members of the Community Safety Alliance, a network of civic, business and faith groups.
The mayor says he hopes that by June the alliance will have a blueprint to guide gang intervention efforts. “We are going to engage the council,” he says, “we are going to engage the community, and we are going to have a plan.”
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Sitting outside a Starbuck’s on Sanborn Road, Cmdr. Iida appears at ease. He tilts his head to check scanner traffic on his radio, one hand on his coffee cup.
A veteran officer with a history of volunteer work with kids, Iida is eager to be at the forefront of this new effort. But for now he’s still managing a team of 34 officers.
His cell phone rings. It’s someone calling to update him on whether a California Highway Patrol helicopter will be available for tonight’s operation, which includes about 20 more police officers than usual. The beefed-up enforcement is in response to a recent flurry of gang-related shootings, including two homicides within a week.
Iida says the suppression effort will quell the violence but only temporarily, which is precisely why he says a long-term solution is needed. Instead of waiting for police to arrest every gang member, Iida says it’s time for all of Salinas to pitch in.
“We’ve been real tolerant, and we’ve become so dependent on the police department to solve the issue, when it’s really a community issue,” he says. “If you’re part of the community you need to be part of the solution.”
As community safety director, Iida will bring together a network of business, community and faith groups to develop a citywide peace strategy. He will write grants for gang intervention and prevention programs and provide avenues for volunteers to help keep kids out of gangs.
Iida first saw the importance of reaching out to youth through the Salinas Police Activities League, a nonprofit group that provides recreational activities for local kids. Iida got involved with PAL about 12 years ago, the same year he joined the Salinas force. Through PAL, Iida started a golf program and chaperoned trips to the Tech Museum of Innovation in San Jose, his hometown.
“I have kids that I’ve been involved with at an early age…that I am still in contact with,” he says. “They’ve become good citizens. One of them became a mother.”
Iida says it’s critical to provide positive recreation and guidance to the city’s young population in order to chip away at the power of gangs to recruit new members. “If we are going to break the cycle of violence,” he says, “we have to start with the youth.”
MEET IIDA AND MEMBERS OF THE COMMUNITY SAFETY ALLIANCE AT 7PM, TUESDAY, MARCH 27, at SHERWOOD HALL, 940 N. MAIN ST., SALINAS. FREE. 758-7381.
|THE WEEKLY TALLY||16||
The number of consecutive years Federico’s and Tillie Gort’s have won their categories (Best Shoe Repair and Best Vegetarian Restaurant in Monterey County, respectively), the longest such streaks. El Estero Car Wash has won Best Car Wash in Monterey County 15 years in a row. Source: The Weekly archives..