Visalia Asks Churches for Help with Gangs

February 29, 2008 8:24:59 AM PST
The war on gangs in the South Valley is taking on a new dimension. At a gathering Thursday in Visalia, Police asked churches and other groups to get involved.The City of Visalia is looking for new ways to deal with gang problems. A big gang summit was held late last year to urge the business community to get involved. The message is now being spread to the city's churches.

When we think about getting rid of gangs, we think about gang crackdowns and arrests. But Visalia's police chief thinks that's only part of the solution. "There are those folks we have to put in jail because they are going to pick on others, but when we do that we need to sweep in and make a difference in those families and make a difference in those folks left behind," said Visalia Police Chief Bob Carden.

Chief Bob Carden is urging churches and other groups to reach out, do things like mentor gang members, help their families and keep an eye on neighborhood kids. The message at this gathering at St. Mary's Catholic Church in Visalia was well received. "It was a very good message and I think it will make a difference," said Visalia resident Chester Jantz.

Carden says Visalia Police and Tulare County Sheriff's Deputies arrested more than 1,000 gang members last year. Most are now out of jail. That's why he's pushing for a community solution for help on a family level. "What we're trying to get across here is what can they do in their own families. What can they do with the seven and eight-year-old, and to support other families that will help to break this cycle," said Carden.


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