South Coast gang prevention coordinator Gus Frias said this week that local schools and police could better cooperate in preventing gang violence by abiding by a state law requiring that every public school campus have a comprehensive safety plan that addresses, among other things, student gang members and gang violence. Frias was hired late last year to better coordinate the resources and focus of the multitude of public and private agencies that deal either directly or tangentially with gang violence.
About 100 individuals involved in such efforts attended the day-long presentation last Thursday at the Goleta Valley Community Center. Those attending also heard from an expert on the Mexican Mafia and how its members direct gang activity “from the Big House to your house.” In addition, they heard how gang activity has been dramatically reduced in the City of Paramount because of gang intervention school programs targeting 2nd, 3rd, 5th, 9th, and 12th graders. Although the gathering took place just two weeks after the City of Santa Barbara announced it was seeking a gang injunction against 30 of the “baddest of the bad,” the issue was not discussed. Frias said a matter of such magnitude warranted a meeting dedicated exclusively to it, but added that injunctions need to be balanced by focused intervention and prevention programs. To that end, the Santa Barbara City Council voted to accept a $369,000 state grant to help fund various intervention and prevention programs.