There are an estimated 7,000 gang members in Stanislaus County -- and they might be living in your house, two gang task force investigators said to an audience at a recent community forum at Modesto High School.
It's children who are being recruited to become gang members and carry out the violence that paralyzes neighborhoods in fear, said investigators assigned to the Central Valley Gang Impact Task Force, the federally funded countywide effort created to gather intelligence on gang activity.
Stanislaus County sheriff's deputy Cory Brown and Modesto police officer Robert Gumm gave a presentation on gangs at the community forum called "Break the Cycle."
Along with their task force work, Gumm is a member of the police Street Crimes Unit and Brown is a member of the sheriff's Special Team Investigating Narcotics and Gangs.
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Brown said just reacting to reports of gang activity is not enough to stay ahead of the criminal trends.
"We can target gang areas and we can respond to those areas, but the problem just moves around," Brown said about gangs avoiding increased enforcement. "They're doing just as much intelligence gathering as we are."
Gumm said parents need to be vigilant of gangs that recruit their children, some as young as elementary school age.
"They're the ones out there doing the drive-bys," Gumm said about the younger gang members. "They have to prove themselves to the OGs (original gangsters) and the 'veteranos' or the veterans, the older guys in the gangs."
The Hispanic Leadership Council and the Stanislaus County Office of Education will host a forum and discussion in Riverbank for policy- makers Thursday. The program is not open to the public. It will include a screening of the documentary "Nuestra Familia: The Impact of Prison Gangs in our Community."
The Stanislaus County chapters of the American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People will host a free public forum May 20 about creating a review board to oversee charges of undue force, harassment of minorities and excess secrecy in dealing with complaints against law enforcement personnel. The event will be at 7 p.m. in Room C102 of Bizzini Hall at California State University, Stanislaus in Turlock.
Area residents are invited to participate in a "March Against Gang Violence" from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. May 24. The march will start at the Stanislaus County Courthouse, 800 11th St., in downtown Modesto and end at Modesto High School, 18 H St. For information, call Jeremiah Williams at 568-3096.
Also on May 24, the community is invited to participate in the "Raw and Real Hip-Hop Symposium" about youth-on-youth violence, a collaborative effort of community mentors and educators. The event's location will be announced soon. For more information, call Jai Gullatt at 408-0277.
Organizers with Modesto City Schools are putting together four gang awareness presentations May 28 at 6 p.m. for students, parents and staff at four middle schools: Hanshaw, La Loma, Mark Twain and Roosevelt. The presentations will cover gang awareness and laws about gangs. They will stress the role parents must play to keep kids out of gangs. For more information, call Jorge Perez at 550-3300, ext. 5402. All members of the public are invited.
The 2nd Annual Male Youth Leadership Conference will be held May 31 at Modesto Junior College. It will include workshops on conflict resolution, how to treat women, incarceration, and health and wellness. The free conference includes lunch and will be held at the MJC West Campus in the Mary Stuart Rogers Student Learning Center from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Registration begins at 8 a.m. The conference targets black males from 9 to 18, but young men from other ethnic and racial groups are invited. For more information, call John Ervin at 204-7521.
Bee staff writer Rosalio Ahumada can be reached at email@example.com or 578-2394.