Attorney General addresses gang problem in Sacramento

California Attorney General Kamala Harris stressed the need to treat the gang problem with a community approach using prevention, intervention and enforcement. Harris was the guest speaker at Mayor Kevin Johnson’s gang forum Tuesday night in Meadowview.

“We have to be smart on crime,” Harris said, eschewing the old notion of the only two choices being to be hard or soft on crime.

She likened the gang violence problem to a public health problem like an epidemic: The best way to prevent it is through inoculations and early treatment, but by the time it is being dealt with in the emergency room, it’s too late, and too expensive.

Harris said combating gang violence should be dealt with regionally, a point that Johnson emphasized in his opening remarks.

“Crime and gang violence doesn’t stop at city lines,” Johnson said. “It goes across multiple jurisdictions.”

Johnson said there are 60 gangs and about 6,000 gang members in Sacramento County, and that students in second and third grade are being peer-pressured into joining gangs.

According to Johnson, the city and school districts will be working together, since the schools oversee youths for seven hours per day during the school year.

They will combine efforts through after-school programs, joint use of facilities and a renewed focus on school safety, he said, adding that benchmarks will be set up so progress can be measured.

One area Johnson focused on was the reading level of third graders, a point he brought up at his State of the City address earlier this year.

“If you can read, you’re not going to jail,” Johnson said after mentioning that 70 percent of incarcerated people are illiterate and only 30 percent of Sacramento’s students are reading at their grade level by the time they finish third grade.

Harris agreed, saying there is a “direct connection” between public education and public safety.

Another aspect of gang and criminal behavior Harris talked about was the “revolving door” of the California criminal justice system.

She said the average prison sentence in California is two years, and 70 percent of people released from prison commit crimes again, highlighting the need for education and prevention programs.

One of those programs is the Ceasefire program through the Sacramento Police Department, which works with gang members to get them out of the gang lifestyle. To read more about the program, click here.

During the question-and-answer session following Harris’ remarks, William Boyer, a resident of Colonial Heights in Sacramento, said police are often viewed as a threat when they come into communities with gang activity.

Harris said that to stop the problem of gang violence, police need to work with the community and the schools and elected officials. She added that witnesses to crimes need to come forward and testify, a problem that plagues gang enforcement, as Sacramento Police recently told The Sacramento Press.

Assemblyman Roger Dickinson attended the forum and said afterward that he agreed with Harris’ and Johnson’s remarks about gangs being a problem the whole community needs to work together to solve.

He also said that he wants to see various state violence prevention programs work more closely together and eliminate some of the redundancies so more resources can go to the actual problem instead of the bureaucracy.

Boyer, who was critical of police presence in the community, said he thinks Ceasefire is a very good program and a great start, but he wants to see more done, especially when it comes to funding to fight the problem.

“They show all these rich people on TV, big cars, mansions and beaches, of course these kids want that, but they’re poor,” he said. “They will get rich or die trying. They need to have more opportunities so they can be educated.”

Gregory King, who works with the Always Knocking nonprofit organization, said the Big Homie Street Team is a program through the nonprofit in which volunteers talk to kids on the streets and show them there are other options. Always Knocking is an organization focusing on ending youth and gang violence.

He said he thinks forums like the one Tuesday night are important, and they are having an effect.

“I’ve been coming to these for years, and each time, there are more new faces,” he said. “People are talking, and people are listening. It’s getting the community together, and people are going to react.”

Brandon Darnell is a staff reporter for The Sacramento Press.

Conversation Express your views, debate, and be heard with those in your area closest to the issue. RSS Feed

April 20, 2011 | 12:41 AM

I’m sorry I forgot to say I like your article. It is well written

April 20, 2011 | 12:58 AM

I like Greg King, he’s a good guy, he’s been around for a while now addressing youth violence. He has an event coming up soon too.

Johnson states, “students in second and third grade are being peer-pressured into joining gangs.” WHERE?

I spoke to a mother whose son was murdered and as we walked out she stated, ‘Why is it every time I leave these events I am disappointed” well Ignorance is bliss and our pain allows us to see threw much of it… I only find comfort because I know a few of the folks putting on the event and a few attending are sincere in their efforts. (Johnson is not one of them) I like what the AG said. However, she needs to clean up her office before coming into the community to address an issue. I couldn’t believe what I read from the assistant attorney general on my son’s appeal. That’s not the most honest office. Also Sacramento youth get double heck probably triple the time youth in other cities get for the same or less offensive crime. So, we should note those 2 year sentences aren’t coming from Sac convictions.

And what was with Johnson’s SUV and his entourage SUV illegally parked in front of the community center facing opposite directions?? THEY couldn’t park the car in a stall like the rest of us folks? They aren’t the secret service no one was going to harm him or the guest speaker. WE can walk to the event, in the neighborhood and they CAN’T park in the parking lot? He needs a parking ticket! Or towed. This is the second time I seen this mess, when his entourage picked up the mayor from another city he did the same thing in front of city hall, parking right in front illegally like they own the CITY building and don’t have to use a parking stall or garage. He is the city mayor now NOT a celebrity for goodness sake. He shouldn’t break the law, what kind of example is he for kids volunteering in city hall? He has more than a 3rd grade reading level. He can’t read NO PARKING

April 20, 2011 | 5:51 AM

rhonda, i guess this is a perfect example of the times i say i believe sometimes you tend to make this personal towards KJ. for example, what did ms. harris say that was unique or plan-oriented towards preventing gang violence? she said nothing, yet you have singled-out KJ. why?

i am a 34 yr old man and it wasn’t too long ago when i was in jr. high and high school (late 80s to early 90s) and gang violence was a problem then. it has been 20 yrs since i first entered jr. high school and yet we have the same problems. intead of thes politicians (KJ included) getting up and making speeches that are empty and hollow, when will they give us a definitive plan? when will ms. harris, KJ, obama, governor brown, ANYONE standup and say “this is THE PLAN” that will stop gang violence”?

stump speeches don’t stop gang violence. politicians don’t stop gang violence. news/press conferences stop gang violence. ACTION will stop gang violence and until all of the suits in society (male and female; politicians and business people; mom AND dad) standup and say “we aren’t going to allow these thugs to run our communities” then the gangs will continue to win. and in my opinion, since they are still in existence, then they are winning.

April 20, 2011 | 9:46 AM

Rich, It was KJ’s forum. At least every flyer, poster… I saw read “Mayor Kevin Johnson presents….. ‘ thus the reason it may appear personal towards Johnson. I was trying to make light of a painful situation of a forum where politics overshadows violence/deaths…. So I simply focused on his car parked illegally. It was painful, nearly every meeting I have ever gone to was/ is painful, it compounds our pain, adds insult to injury, pours salt on wounds, show a band aid for a fracture, for the love of money, money, money, money people looking to enhance their departments looking at money and not at the people…… I wrote it was painful for the mother and I and why I wrote Ignorance is bliss. Sometimes I don’t have enough energy to go into all the disappointments and I save it for a rainy day…… It feels good to read what you wrote and not have to write it myself. It feels good seeing it come from someone else. Rich, I’m tired of fighting; I don’t know if it is a sign of the times but my comment was a sign of exhaustion and pain. I’d rather take a moment and laugh than continue to cry….. Your comment is great!

April 21, 2011 | 5:45 AM

rhonda, keep your spirits up!!!! may god bless you and your family.

Leave a Reply