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    Local street gangs are growing and getting harder to police, according to officials from nine out of 11 law enforcement agencies who spoke to SANDAG for a study released this week.

    A possible reason, they said, is the state’s prison realignment effort, which shortens sentences for low-level offenders and relies more heavily on local jails and probationers. The hammer of incarceration just isn’t as intimidating these days.

    But San Diego State University gang researcher Dana Nurge said “the verdict’s still out” on realignment’s effect.

    “I think we need to keep an eye on it and see whether these perceptions are actually true,” said Nurge, who wasn’t involved with the SANDAG study.


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    The report looks at surveys on gang activity completed by juveniles and adults who were arrested in 2012. The study authors also talked to law enforcement agencies about how gang activity has changed.

    Nurge and the study authors suggest local jurisdictions should pay immediate attention to proven causes and deterrents for gang activity. Young teens – usually age 13.5, according to the study – join gangs for a sense of belonging. They’ll often choose a different path if someone intervenes early on.

    But the city of San Diego is behind the curve when it comes to institutionalizing early intervention. City reports show the number of new gang members consistently outnumbers those leaving gangs. Nearly half of SANDAG’s survey respondents said they wouldn’t know where to go if they needed help getting out of a gang.

    “I would argue that San Diego definitely doesn’t have enough street outreach. We don’t have any organized system of it,” Nurge said.

    File photo
    File photo
    SDSU gang researcher Dana Nurge

    She’s referring to strategies embraced by the mayor’s offices in Boston, Los Angeles, Chicago and Oakland. Those cities employ former gang members who entrench themselves in neighborhoods to mentor youth and counsel their parents full time.

    “So maybe it’s getting a kid who’s not in school and getting him back in school — helping the parent and the kid do the paperwork,” Nurge said. “It might be connecting an older gang member who wants to get out with a job. It might just be helping the family get their basic needs met for food.”

    In San Diego, much of the work is done through an informal web of churches and nonprofits. The city has a gang commission that advises City Council on gang policy, but it’s volunteer-based and lacks a budget.

    “I think it would take support from the mayor’s office more than anything, and just a recognition that this kind of approach is effective and necessary,” Nurge said.

    The San Diego Police Department did not respond in time to confirm whether it’s one of the nine agencies witnessing increased gang activity. Violent and overall crime through October are down from last year.

    But SANDAG’s study suggests all jurisdictions aren’t nudging people out of gangs as early as they should. The majority of participants said they got out of the lifestyle because they got older. The average age of gang-affiliated respondents was 30.

      This article relates to: City Heights, Community, Gang Culture, Government, News, Public Safety, Share

      Written by Megan Burks

      Megan Burks is a reporter for Speak City Heights, a media project of Voice of San Diego, KPBS, Media Arts Center and The AjA Project. You can contact her directly by emailing meburks@kpbs.org.

      12 comments
      izraul hidashi
      izraul hidashi

      Here's another crazy idea... Use some of the money being extorted from law abiding citizens through victim less traffic ticket scams and fund real programs that matter, instead of the court programs found in the illegal funding schedules that are gross conflicts of interest..  or is it only a problem until it's not worth fixing financially?
       

      Oh .. too soon?.. or too hypocritical?  lol

      izraul hidashi
      izraul hidashi

      Why is it that nobody wants to look at the real problems behind these things? You people with your ideas of harsher punishments and more proposed sanctions are incredible. Nothing will get better until everyone steps back and takes a long hard look at themselves. Stop ignoring the other problems that need fixing first, and then you can work your way down. 

      It's not rocket science. If you want to clean up the streets then start with the corrupt gang members in positions of office who are benefiting from their unlawful acts. I mean seriously, what does it take for people to put themselves in others shoes? 

      We talk about Gun Control on the streets while the FBI is caught running guns into Mexico...  We talk about the war on drugs while the CIA is caught flying drugs into the country..  We talk about the war on gangs while police officers execute unarmed citizens.. 

      Now were going to talk about sanctions involving Iran? Has anyone noticing the unusual rise in Heroin use these past several years?  Is anyone paying attention to other things going on around us? Obviously there's some pretty bright individuals here leaving comments. Who else noticed our troops immediately seized the poppy fields in Afghanistan under the false pretense of the war on terror? 

      Whomever thinks this is a coincidence .. http://www.nbcnews.com/news/world/heroin-use-grows-u-s-poppy-crops-thrive-afghanistan-n388081 is clearly unfit to try and give advice about how to solve the problems on the street. 


      If just a quarter of the amount of money spent on the "war on terror" would have gone into building something as simple as 1 Audio school or Music and Video studio, right smack dab in the hood, I guarantee half of these problem kids who are already into that anyway, would spend more time there than in these streets...  and all these other useless discussions wouldn't even have to take place. 

      Stop building liquor stores... start building useful centers..  stop white collar gang members from misusing and pocketing funds for themselves, and start using it to actually help do something ..stop pointing fingers at street criminals and start pointing them at the political ones..

      Stop ignoring the real issues and start focusing on what matters ..  If nobody cares enough to do something real then at least just stop punishing and start helping .. 

      People who are clueless to the experiences of others should have no say on what to do about their problems, cause they don't posses the ability to understand what is really needed to help..  and the same should go for all of our political leaders who have say over us as well.. These are not impossible solutions, and a lot of this mess can easily be fixed with real effort..

      Otherwise were just complaining about the same problems we keep helping to fuel. 

      You keep taking until there's nothing left then act like surprised over their actions when they have nothing to live for..  It's completely absurd.  And then nobody can seem to figure out why nothings worked!  lol

      Michael Robertson
      Michael Robertson

      Drugs are behind San Diego's gang programs. Legalize drugs and you take away 90% of money that funds gun activity. We put sanctions on Iran, why don't we do the same for gangs?

      Megan Burks
      Megan Burks

      The study does talk about the reach of organized drug cartels and their effect on local gang activity. But SANDAG and law enforcement officials say pimping girls seems to be replacing drugs when it comes to generating income for the gang. You can sell an ounce once; you can sell a girl over and over again.

      The study that mentions drug cartels: http://www.sandag.org/uploads/publicationid/publicationid_1801_16883.pdf

      Chris Brewster
      Chris Brewster

      Ms. Burkes: Thanks for this source document. Very interesting. Regarding drugs, which Mr. Robertson cited, it indicates that 12% of respondents reported that they were drawn to the gang for drug dealing/making money. I imagine some of that “making money” is the pimping to which you refer. It also indicates that most arrestees reported that their motivation for joining or associating with gangs was because their friends were members or to obtain a sense of belonging with peers. This, of course, is just a snippet of a much more comprehensive report.

      Chris Brewster
      Chris Brewster

      Also, what is your source for the assertion that drugs are behind the gang problem? That's not mentioned in the article.

      Randy Dotinga
      Randy Dotinga

      What's your citation on the 90 percent figure, Michael?

      Michael Robertson
      Michael Robertson subscribermember

      Drugs are behind San Diego's gang programs. Legalize drugs and you take away 90% of money that funds gun activity. We put sanctions on Iran, why don't we do the same for gangs?

      Megan Burks
      Megan Burks author

      The study does talk about the reach of organized drug cartels and their effect on local gang activity. But SANDAG and law enforcement officials say pimping girls seems to be replacing drugs when it comes to generating income for the gang. You can sell an ounce once; you can sell a girl over and over again.

      The study that mentions drug cartels: http://www.sandag.org/uploads/publicationid/publicationid_1801_16883.pdf

      Chris Brewster
      Chris Brewster subscribermember

      Ms. Burkes: Thanks for this source document. Very interesting. Regarding drugs, which Mr. Robertson cited, it indicates that 12% of respondents reported that they were drawn to the gang for drug dealing/making money. I imagine some of that “making money” is the pimping to which you refer. It also indicates that most arrestees reported that their motivation for joining or associating with gangs was because their friends were members or to obtain a sense of belonging with peers. This, of course, is just a snippet of a much more comprehensive report.

      Chris Brewster
      Chris Brewster subscribermember

      Also, what is your source for the assertion that drugs are behind the gang problem? That's not mentioned in the article.

      Randy Dotinga
      Randy Dotinga memberauthor

      What's your citation on the 90 percent figure, Michael?