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Leaders shared ideas, inspiration for moving forward against gangs

Leaders shared ideas, inspiration for moving forward against gangs

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Posted: Saturday, April 21, 2012 12:00 am

Lodi's gang problem may not be as hopeless and hopelessly neglected as you might think.

In a series of columns that ran over several weeks in the News-Sentinel, eight Lodi leaders reflected on gang violence.

Police Chief Mark Helms made it clear what a problem gangs are: four gang murders since August, gang crimes up 25 percent in 2011, gang crimes involving firearms up 75 percent, 11 percent of gang crimes occurred in schools.

That's discouraging.

However, in re-reading the series and doing follow-up calls, we were encouraged to learn how many programs are in place or falling into place.

Chief Helms revealed the department landed a $250,000 grant to launch a GRIP program — Gang Reduction, Intervention and Prevention. Most of the money will go for "suppression and enforcement" — the sort of things cops do best. But there's also $50,000 to get landlords to clean up their property and move out problem tenants, and $50,000 for "community organizations."

We expect that money will be welcomed by Lodi's many youth service groups.

We were also intrigued by a question from Heritage School Principal Maria Cervantes: Should we do away with middle school? She asked if K-8 schools might offer vulnerable seventhand eighth-graders more "social, emotional and academic support needed during such challenging times."

Lodi's schools and city government are engaged with gangs.

The missing ingredient is individual citizens.

Many of our contributors called for parents to be less naive and more involved. At the same time, they expect miracles from single moms and dads working two minimum-wage jobs. It takes "insane" amounts of time to turn around a rebellious teenage boy.

To make real progress will take a commitment from many others in the community.

People who don't live in the middle of the shooting and the poverty can still help in two critical ways — donate and volunteer.

Interested in writing a check? The Boys & Girls Club could use a big one. Then consider donations to the One-Eighty Teen Center, BOBS and the Boys Scouts and the Girls Scouts.

Interested in volunteering? Many good opportunities are listed in the box that accompanies this editorial.

Other volunteer opportunities would blossom if someone plants a seed. For instance, the Lodi Boys & Girls Club's Eddie Cotton invited volunteer coaches to recruit BOBS teams at his club. City Councilwoman Joanne Mounce talked about Scouting, but it would take veteran Scout leaders to organize new troops on the Eastside.

Father Brandon Ware sees a need for boys to have a "rite of passage" as an alternative to "the lifestyle" of gang violence. Again, the Boys & Girls Club is waiting for one person to step up and run its "Passport to Manhood" course.

Hiding in a safe neighborhood, hoping the problem will go away won't change a thing.

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