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Judging Santa Rosa's anti-gang efforts

  • Sgt. Rainer Navarro, center, and his Gang Crimes Team conduct a probation search at Motel 6 North in Santa Rosa on Friday night.

Since 2004, when Santa Rosa voters approved Measure O, taxpayers have spent more than $7 million on gang prevention and intervention programs.

The goal has been to undermine the growing influence of gangs by supporting programs to reform existing gang members and keep at-risk youth from being drawn to gangs.

To ensure the programs were effective, the city's gang-prevention officials vowed to work with the Santa Rosa Police Department to closely track gang crime statistics in the city.

Members of the Mayor's Gang Prevention Task Force committed to "develop a standard statistical reporting format" allowing "community decision makers to quickly and easily understand and interpret gang-related criminal data and trends."

Seven years into the program, that hasn't happened.

As a result, the issue of the effectiveness of anti-gang efforts — and the need for a $119,000-a-year gang czar — is likely to dominate Tuesday's City Council meeting.

Police Chief Tom Schwedhelm will brief the council on how he measures the success of the department's gang crime strategy.

The Police Department tracked gang crime statistics using one system before 2007, stopped doing it at all from 2008 to 2010 because of budget cuts, and now is using a new method that cannot be compared to previous years.

The changes have made it impossible for the department to say with certainty whether gang crime, which city officials vowed to cut in half by 2010, is up or down.

That troubles Councilman Gary Wysocky, who says the public deserves clear data about whether or not the city's gang-prevention programs are working.


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