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Santa Rosa gang prevention program gets new leader, reorganized

Santa Rosa's gang prevention program has a new manager and a new home.

The city hired naturalist Bethany Facendini to be its gang prevention and intervention services manager.

Facendini is a graduate of Montgomery High School who since 2004 has worked for the East Bay Regional Park District, most recently as a supervising naturalist. She begins work Sept. 10 in Santa Rosa.

City Manager Kathy Millison also announced last week she was reorganizing the city's gang prevention program, moving leadership out of the city's Recreation and Parks Department and into the city manager's office.

Millison said several factors made this the appropriate time to "refocus policy oversight" of the program.

These included the retirement of former gang prevention manager Ellen Bailey and the completion of a new, five-year strategic plan emphasizing regional gang prevention efforts and programs aimed at helping gang members re-enter the community after incarceration.

Facendini will report directly to Assistant City Manager Jennifer Phillips, who said moving oversight of the program makes sense because the city manager's office already has strong relationships with officials in other communities, contacts that will help support the program's new goals.

The city's after-school and recreation programs for at-risk youth -- the heart of the city's gang prevention efforts -- will continue to be run out of the Recreation and Parks Department. The enforcement components of the program will remain the responsibility of the Police Department.

Phillips denied oversight of the program was being shifted in part because of the political infighting.

The program has become a flashpoint for the City Council in recent years. Mayor Ernesto Olivares, a former police lieutenant, ran the program for two years before he retired in 2008.

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