New Tulare County task force to prevent kids from joining gangs

A multi-million dollar grant is coming to Tulare County. Sheriff Mike Boudreaux says the money will be used in a new way to prevent county middle schoolers from joining gangs.
VISALIA, Calif. (KFSN) -- A new task force has been set up in Tulare County to prevent kids from getting involved with gangs. The unit includes several different agencies working together in a new way to prevent crime.

"Instead of them being influenced in a negative way by the gangs and the street environment, we want to provide that opportunity to be a positive influence," said Tulare County Sheriff Mike Boudreaux.

Officers from the sheriff's office, Exeter Police Department and Farmersville Police Department will be working with the Tulare County Office of Education, Pro-Youth HEART and the county's public defender to help at-risk teens turn their own lives around. They believe changes will begin immediately.

"Now we have a chance to really build some great capacity but also looking at sustainability as well," said Adam Valencia with the Tulare County Office of Education.

The sheriff says gang violence on a whole is plateauing, but there are still some spikes during the year.

"If at any point you think that everything is under control and stabilized, you're really kidding yourself," said Boudreaux.

The new task force is meant to be proactive -- preventing kids from getting involved in gangs rather than responding to violence after they're already entrenched.

"The youth are our future; anything we can do to help shape that is very important for us," said Exeter Police Chief Cliff Bush.

That's why Bush and the other members of the program believe it will help close the circle -- preventing gang crime in the community.

Schools in Exeter, Farmersville, Waukena and Earlimart will be the primary areas for this program. They were picked based on the number of at-risk kids in those communities.

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