More Money to Fight Gangs
Seaside and Soledad join the county’s Gang Task Force.
Thursday, May 15, 2008
For the first time, Seaside and Soledad will be represented on the Monterey County Joint Gang Task Force. Federal earmarked funding will allow one officer from each city – including salary, benefits and overtime – to serve on the task force full time for the 2008-2009 fiscal year.
Formed in 2005, the task force is currently made up of 15 officers: six from Salinas, seven from the county and two from the California Highway Patrol.
Seaside Police Chief Steve Cercone says he requested funding to put an officer on the task force more than two years ago. The city of Soledad made a similar request. The funding finally came through this spring, and Sheriff Mike Kanalakis invited officers from the two cities to join the task force in April.
Although the focus has primarily been on Salinas gang activity, gang-related assaults on Seaside’s Fremont Boulevard have risen over the past three years, Cercone says. He expects the addition of a Seaside officer to the task force will increase its presence on the Peninsula. “We’ll have the Gang Task Force over here more often,” he says.
Task force Sgt. Stan Cooper says the additional officers will bring more intelligence and manpower to the team. “The more officers we have, the more resources we can put on the streets,” he says.
Currently, the task force visits Seaside about once a week, Cooper says. While there is gang activity in the city, related crimes tend to involve drugs, robberies and graffiti more than the violence that has plagued Salinas, he says.
Seaside’s position on the task force has not been filled yet, Cooper adds. He expects the city to select a fairly experienced officer, creating a new vacancy in the Seaside Police Department.
The SPD will add four to six more patrol officers once the new fiscal year begins July 1, Cercone says. The officers and their equipment will be funded by the sales tax increase voters approved in February.