12/05/07

A COMMISSION WITH A MISSION

For decades the North County has been plagued by gang activity and violence. Due to many governmental and law enforcement jurisdictions, coordination for the entire region has been nearly impossible. The time has come to bring all of the regional partners together to form a plan to deal with gangs along the 78 Corridor. Supervisor Pam Slater-Price and I asked the Board of Supervisors to begin the process of creating a North County Gang Commission and our request was unanimously approved. This Commission will bring together experts from education, law enforcement, business, social and health services, and even youth formerly involved in gangs to bring about a change for our region.

This Commission will be tasked to form a plan that will target prevention and intervention, in addition to suppression. They will be responsible for coordinating the efforts and hearing the ideas of our community partners on the front line of this issue.

Because many North County cities are smaller in size, forming a collaborative partnership will provide a better opportunity to pursue grant funding and form taskforces that will benefit the entire region. At the beginning of this year I lobbied in Washington D.C. for funds to address our concerns about gangs. Recently San Diego organizations have been given more than $1 million to fight gangs in North County.

A decade ago the Sheriff and I established the North County Gang Taskforce. It has been a model program, one that demonstrates just how effective collaboration can be. District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis has been instrumental in the anti-gang effort by instituting gang injunctions in North County cities. The most recent injunction placed in San Marcos is an excellent example of her commitment to fixing this problem. One function of the North County Gang Commission will be to ensure that the community support is behind the law enforcement effort, and that these dollars spent on suppression will not be wasted by ignoring prevention and intervention.

I have worked with community partners such as the San Diego Workforce Partnership to set aside funding for North County to address the intervention piece of the puzzle. Teaching potential gang members how to make an honest living is a vital piece to breaking this cycle. Now is the time to bring together programs and ideas to prevent kids from entering gangs, and intervene for those who can still be saved.

Ultimately, the problem cannot be solved by one agency or entity in the North County. It will take a combined effort and cooperation to bring a plan of action that will serve a very large area. We have set the stage for a new beginning for North County.

Bill Horn is the Fifth District Supervisor for San Diego County