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Community Voices Confronting gangs in Lodi: Ralph Womack, Lodi Unified School District trustee

‘Gangs are actively recruiting our children as early as the fourth grade. Why? Gang leaders have a mission and strategy to recruit members.’

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Ralph Womack

Posted: Thursday, March 29, 2012 12:00 am

Before retiring from the Stockton Police Department in 2003, I had 32 years in law enforcement. In all those years, my most disturbing experience has always been the violence. I am currently program manager for Operation Peacekeeper, a City of Stockton youth gang/violence prevention program. The focus is youth ages 10-18, who often exhibit behaviors and attitudes that indicate they may be heading down a path of violence and/or gangs.

An early indicator is when normally good grades in school suddenly drop. If people want to see a decrease in gangs and violence, they have to realize first that criminal activity and violence are the main reasons gangs exist in the first place. Any effective prevention effort must include all three areas of a youth's life: the home, the street and school. We must connect the dots on all three areas 24/7.

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