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MIX:Get to the kids before gangs do


April 25, 2007|By ALICIA LOPEZ

In an effort to alleviate the council's fears, Shawkey told them in the meeting that he is a big believer in accountability. He even said he thought it was the right decision for the city to eliminate the DARE program after studies showed it to be ineffective. He assured the council that the plan was to monitor the intervention specialist position to make sure it was effective.

Capt. Smith sat at that meeting and indicated that he's a cop through and through.

"I love to put crooks in jail, especially gang members," he said.

The man has been a police officer for 29 years. After making it clear that he's no wimpy hand-holder, he went on to tell of the absolute necessity of prevention in the battle against gangs. He equated the gang problem to a dirty tub. He said they keep trying to drain the dirty water from the tub by arresting all the gang members but the tub keeps filling up because the faucet is still on. He said prevention and intervention programs are designed to turn off the faucet.


The good news is, even without the approval of an intervention specialist position Costa Mesa still has the federally funded Project ASK on its side. The organization is not an anti-gang program, but because it focuses on at-risk youths and their parents, its counselors do encounter children who may be considering the gang life.

Hopefully, between the groups already in place, even without the coordination that would be offered by an intervention specialist in the police department, Costa Mesa can reduce the number of children getting into gangs. Can you really put a price tag on saving a child's life?

  • ALICIA LOPEZ teaches journalism at Orange Coast College and lives in Costa Mesa.

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