Anti-gang book to be distributed at Tulare Co Schools

VISALIA, Calif.

The Tulare County Sheriff's Department has cracked down on gangs for the past few years. And they said gang activity and crime is down.

Part of that continuing battle is educating the public. Using its updated handout the office of education is hoping to help parents and teachers protect their kids from gangs.

The 40-page handbook is what Louie Thomas hopes will keep kids from joining or being forced into the gang lifestyle.

"It's very fundamental, but it's fundamentals that I think can save some of our youth that are involved," Louie Thomas said.

Thomas has worked on gang suppression and prevention teams for nearly 20 years. He added a handful of new sections to the 10-year-old manual. Included in the book is the role of female gangs and gang intervention and prevention.

"Every year I see more and more kids sophisticated in the street ways, but they're losing out on their education," he said.

Educators are not alone in the fight - in recent years, law enforcement has imposed gang injunctions in areas like Cutler and Orosi.

"We've seen a constant reduction in violent gang crimes. It's gone down tremendously," said Tulare County Sheriff's Office gang unit Sergeant Mark Gist.

The Tulare County Sheriff's department said there are roughly 5,200 documented gang members in the county. And there are more than 120 validated gangs.

Gang related crime may be down, but back in January - it made for disturbing headlines - as Visalia Police said a gang member was shot inside the crowded Visalia mall by opposing gang members.

"We hear about a shooting at a mall," said Thomas. "That brings awareness. But every day, warfare, I call it warfare. It's like you don't see it, but it's there."

And that's why Thomas helped with this gang prevention booklet.

Something Jacob King said will be useful for his 13-year-old son.

"Yeah, it'll be helpful," King said. Even he said kids are falling into gangs at a younger age now. "They're stating, what 10, 9, I mean, young ages."

The gang prevention booklets will be distributed at Tulare County schools.

The office of education is also working on a Spanish language version of this pamphlet. That should be available in April.

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For more information:
Tulare County Office of Education
(559) 733-6300

http://tularesheriff.info/region_V_antigang.html
http://www.co.tulare.ca.us/government/sheriff/end_gangs/default.asp

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