Let’s hope this Gang Task Force lasts a while

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With the recent rise in gang violence in Hollister, the City
Council’s revival of the city’s Gang Task Force Advisory Board is
welcome news.
With the recent rise in gang violence in Hollister, the City Council’s revival of the city’s Gang Task Force Advisory Board is welcome news.

We hope the Gang Task Force, approved Monday, will tackle the problem head-on and make a difference. The city’s rising tide of red ink will cause cuts in the police department at the same time Hollister has seen an increase in gang activity.

As of July 1, Hollister’s school resource officer – who keeps tabs on gang activity at schools – will be recalled to regular patrol. And the city already cut a crime prevention officer who ran the DARE program.

The timing is terrible. There’s been three shootings in the last nine months. Police have been responding to an extraordinary number of drive-by shootings and “shots fired” calls. And, in March, suspected gang members picked a fight with a clerk at Kmart and beat him with a hammer, according to police.

“Right now, I’d say we’re definitely on an upswing,” said District Attorney John Sarsfield, one of the group’s members.

So, with a growing gang problem and a shrinking budget to fight it, the renewal of the Gang Task Force is the right move at the right time. It came back when the Council – with Councilmembers Robert Scattini and Pauline Valdivia taking a particular interest – asked Police Chief Jeff Miller to organize a new Gang Task Force.

We hope the members, many of whom still need to be appointed, use their time wisely to create the concrete programs through grants and donations that the city can’t afford to fund. Officials plan to start by holding a series of public meetings to formulate ideas on how to increase awareness of gangs and prevent kids from joining them.

We need to educate parents about the dangers of gang life and show them the warning signs so they can tell if their children are at risk. We also need to find a grant to hire someone to go into schools and show gang members that there is a way out of their destructive lifestyle.

We also hope this task force has a lot more staying power than the prior one. The original gang task force met only once more than a year ago but fizzled out when Police Chief Bill Pierpoint retired suddenly. Now, we have Chief Miller in place and there should be no excuse for failure.

Let’s get the task force moving quickly and working effectively because we need to put a stop to gang violence before it grows out of control.

To respond to this editorial or comment on this issue, please send or bring letters to Editor, Hollister Free Lance, 350 Sixth St., Hollister, Calif. 95023 or fax to 637-4104 or e-mail [email protected]

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