Governor going after gangs

first_imgSeeking to quell growing gang crime in California, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger unveiled a statewide plan Friday that would boost punishment for violent gang members, create a California anti-gang czar and identify key counties for priority funding. The governor’s plan would be the state’s first comprehensive effort to coordinate anti-gang efforts and comes as cities throughout the state have pleaded for assistance with the problem. In Los Angeles, gang-related crimes rose 14 percent last year. “We are basically telling the criminals that the crackdown on them will not stop anymore at the city limits or the county line,” Schwarzenegger said at a press conference in Oakland. “We will continue to do it statewide. We are stepping up our effort. We will go after them with full force.” The governor’s plan sets aside $48 million in state and federal funds and grants even as Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa had lobbied Schwarzenegger and the Legislature for $30 million to help L.A. alone. While the plan does not grant that request, it would allow counties with a high number of gang-related homicides – including L.A. – to apply for more funding. “I think it’s a start,” Villaraigosa said of the plan while at a separate press event at Griffith Park. “I welcome \ and will work well with the governor and we hope to work well with the Legislature to get the funds that we need to make it work for L.A.” Lawmaker criticism Still, it was unclear Friday how much of the plan would be put into place because many of the key elements need legislative approval. Some Democratic lawmakers said the plan places too much emphasis on suppression, while Republicans said it does not go far enough. “It’s great, but it is very heavy on suppression,” said Assemblywoman Anna Caballero, D-Salinas, chairwoman of the Select Committee on Youth Violence Prevention. “It’s got some intervention and not any prevention.” The governor’s plan includes designating a state anti-gang coordinator in the Office of Emergency Services. It also would require some convicted gang members to wear global positioning system devices and register with local police after their release from prison. And it targets new prevention and intervention programs and job training for former gang members. It also would provide more assistance to areas that have the most gang problems. The state would identify such communities from a list of 25 counties with the highest gang-related homicide rates. While such figures were not immediately available, the governor noted that L.A., San Bernardino, Riverside and Sacramento counties would be among those that would qualify and be eligible to apply for more state grants. Those counties also would be eligible to apply for any new federal money available under pending legislation authored by Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif. The governor’s plan received support from Los Angeles civil-rights attorney Connie Rice and Los Angeles Unified School District Superintendent David Brewer III. Rice, co-director of the Advancement Project Los Angeles, praised the governor for including an emphasis on prevention programs such as job opportunities for former gang members. “These efforts, if successful, will serve as building blocks toward comprehensive prevention systems that remove the neighborhood conditions fueling gangs,” Rice wrote in a letter of support. More suppression Brewer praised the plan’s boost for summer youth programs, career technical education and after-school programs. “This is a positive step towards a much-needed conversation on how we can finally solve the gang problem in its entirety,” Brewer wrote in his letter of support. But Republican lawmakers have introduced their own anti-gang measures in the Legislature and would like to see Schwarzenegger go even further in suppression efforts. Sen. George Runner, R-Lancaster, the Republican caucus chairman, said Republicans want to target first-time gang offenders to prevent them from becoming hardened criminals. “Our difference with the governor’s plan is we have a bigger emphasis on juveniles and trying to break the tie between the juvenile and the adult gang member,” Runner said. Staff Writer Dana Bartholomew contributed to this story. [email protected] (916) 446-6723160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!last_img read more