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Lodi Unified School District trustees hear gang intervention presentation

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Posted: Wednesday, November 20, 2013 12:00 am

In 2012, Lodi officials were surprised to learn from the state that the city had the second-highest crime rate in San Joaquin County. Lodi Neighborhood Services Manager Joseph Wood thought that the rating was odd since three cities — Stockton, Manteca and Tracy — have a greater population than Lodi.

Through two state grants, the city began a program called LodiGRIP, also known as the Lodi Gang Reduction, Intervention, Prevention program, which Wood said has been highly successful in combating gang activity.

The program began after Lodi police identified 42 criminal suspects as gang members who they believe were involved in gun-related offenses in 2010, Wood told Lodi Unified School District trustees on Tuesday. Twenty-eight of the suspects were arrested.

The intervention program became so successful, he said, that Norteño gang members at Lodi High School were playing handball with rival Sureños. Gang members also began going to the school library and studying, Wood said.

After seeing the success at Lodi High, the city expanded the program to Tokay High School, Liberty Continuation High School, plus Lodi and Millswood middle schools.

“We’re seeing a change in behavior and (school) attendance,” he said. “Successes came quickly, but time will tell whether they will be lasting.”

The city works with several community organizations to combat gang activity and reaching out to at-risk youths, Wood said. They include the Lodi Boosters of Boys and Girls Sports, One-Eighty Teen Center, Lodi Boys and Girls Club, Community Partnership for Families and Stockton-based Point Break.

Lodi Unified board members thanked Wood and outreach specialists Ruben Guardiola and Ernest Bass for their work in the intervention program, which began on Oct. 1, 2012.

The program really hit home for Lodi Unified trustee Ron Freitas, San Joaquin County’s chief deputy district attorney for the agency’s homicide and gang prosecution division. He’s prosecuted gang suspects for 20 years.

“Thank you for providing the organization,” Freitas told Wood.

Contact reporter Ross Farrow at rossf@lodinews.com.

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