What can city leaders do to address the growing problem?
November 3, 2006
Sheriff Ken Furlong
Everyone in this community experienced fear and dramatic emotions following the awful shooting on Oct. 27. Our community was stunned by the horrid act of violence that is unimaginable in any town, and I am sure that this has rocked our sense of security at home, work and in school. Too often we believe it only occurs somewhere else. Then, in our own community, we demand answers that are not quick enough to come.
The basic responsibility of government and our community leaders is to provide for the public’s safety. And like it or not, public safety departments across America are strapped with the same budget constraints as any business or family itself in our community. Every day we all make the dollar stretch further and attempt to enhance the efficiencies of the services we provide. And then the time comes when it just doesn’t seem to stretch far enough.
The leadership of Carson City is sound in the recognition that two separate issues are at the headlines. The first and most prominent being the shooting of two young men at a Halloween party. The responsibility for bringing the shooters to justice rests with law enforcement and our justice system.
The second point, and more directly to the question, is how do our city leaders address the growing gang problem in Carson City. I believe very strongly that the answers will come from three areas of persistent effort.
First, we must work diligently within the community to educate our young on the violent ends that gang activities bring. Secondly, as we stand together. We must focus on life and career opportunities that will prevent the recruitment of new gang members. And third, the justice system must aggressively pursue and incarcerate those gang members who wildly violate our safety.
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Unfortunately, I can not put my hands on a Nobel Prize-winning model that has erased the historical roots, causes or compositions of gangs. Faced with this dilemma, the leaders of Carson City should not act with a speed that jeopardizes the innocent, nor at a crawl of insignificance.
I believe very strongly that we can remove the ever-present gang problem in this town by facing it together. Whether at home, work, or within our social circles, a strong message must be sent by everyone that we reject the gang memberships, affiliations and lifestyles.
I ask that our community leaders stand together and sponsor neighborhood and community meetings to address the core issues of gangs. Some of these meetings have been taking place all year long, and others are being developed. To this end, we can explore those community programs already in place and give direction toward improvements. Secondly, new grass-roots efforts must be developed. These meetings have long been running and could use the assistance, while others to be organized have already begun to sprout.
Carson City Supervisor Robin Williamson
There are no quick fixes and the first strong step is to admit that we have a problem and to get the Sheriff working with his staff to develop a plan, short, medium and long range. I am sure additional funding will be required and we, as the board of supervisors, need to commit to getting the public safety officers the funds they need.
We need better communication between the city, the school, and the diverse members of our community. There needs to be trust between these entities so the perpetrators can be brought to justice. No one wants an event of this type to happen again in any neighborhood.
And there also has to be a sense of indignation that such an occurrence would dare to happen in Carson City.
All this will take time but the meth prevention coalition has brought together many of these partners and we need to build on that group to make our town safe.
Carson City Manager Linda Ritter
The proliferation of gangs is a very broad social issue, not just a law-enforcement issue. We need to look at the root of the problem, i.e., why do our youth choose to join and participate in gangs? What can we do to convince our youth not to take this path? That doesn’t mean that we don’t also do what ever is necessary to eradicate the illegal activity of gang members. To that end, Sheriff Furlong may need additional resources. However, adding deputies to the street will not make gangs go away.
We need to take a holistic approach and involve the entire community to effectively combat gangs. This means including the schools, churches, businesses, parents, grandparents and community groups in addition to local government. We need to take a preventative approach – find out what makes gang membership desirable and do whatever is necessary to reverse that desirability. If we take this two-pronged approach – ensuring that there are consequences for gang members that break the law, and doing everything we can do to prevent our youth from joining gangs, we will make a difference.
Javier Ramirez, our Citizen Outreach Coordinator, is working with the Sheriff’s Department and other organizations to develop a gang-awareness program for parents. The first meeting of this group was held this week and included representatives from the city, school district, sheriffs office, district attorney’s office, Nevada Hispanic Services, Latino Parents Committee, the Latino Chamber of Commerce, Community Council on Youth and many interested parents. A result of this meeting was the organization of a parent awareness program from 7-9 p.m. Nov. 17 at the Sierra Room in the Community Center. Representatives from the Sheriff’s Street Enforcement Team and Gang Unit will be there to educate parents on gangs and what signs to look for if their children are associating with gangs.
This session is geared to the Latino community, however, the information is important to all parents. At that meeting, all parents will be asked to become involved and help combat gangs. This kind of grass-roots effort is the best way to address this serious social issue. I look forward to seeing this group of citizens move forward and make a difference!
Editor’s Note: Responses from Mayor Marv Teixeira, and supervisors Richard Staub and Pete Livermore, were not received by deadline.