Symposium addresses Carson gang problems

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About 150 people attended a Chamber of Commerce luncheon focusing on the gang issue in Carson City at the Carson City Nugget on Wednesday.

Salinas, Calif., Mayor Dennis Donohue was the keynote speaker at the informational symposium that addressed the severity of gang crime in the capital city.

"Solving this problem requires an entire community. At the heart of the Salinas situation relies an exceptionally simple reality - we have too many gang members and associates in Salinas," Donohue said.

Donohue spoke of the programs he has started since taking office in a city of 150,000 besieged by gang violence and a record homicide rate.

"We have worked to increase our local law enforcement collaboration. We've aggressively reached out to FBI ... and asked that folks, side-by-side with us, deal with this problem."

Phillip Harrison, chairman of the Chamber of Commerce's Quality of Life Committee, said programs like Neighborhood Watch, Business Watch and Secret Witness are important tools that aid law enforcement in combating crime in the city.

"We have an undesirable underbelly in this community that continues to surface when we least expect it," he said. "By bringing our gang issue to the forefront, we can act on this issue."

An assessment in 2007 found that Carson City is home to six to eight primarily homegrown or "hybrid" gangs.

Of the city's 600-plus gang members and associates, about 50 percent are school-aged children, said Sheriff Ken Furlong.

Two or three outlaw motorcycle gangs are also in the city.

District Attorney Neil Rombardo talked about GRIPS, the Gang Response Intervention Prevention Suppression program, funded by a grant secured by his office in 2007.

The program is working on projects such as peer court, in which juvenile offenders are sentenced by a juvenile jury, and a Life Skills Training Program that targets children on the verge of joining gangs.

Rombardo said prosecutors are also using the gang enhancement and aggressively going after gang-related offenders who are violating probation by associating with gang members.

Furlong said, "We've got to go after these gangs, right now, in Carson city, Lyon County and Douglas County."

"If you know your kid is in a gang, then pull him out of it. Let's do everything we possibly can. If it takes a jail cell, we've got plenty," Furlong said.


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