Council Approves $67,000 for Gang Task Force

The Santa Barbara City Council voted to pony up another $67,000 to help fund the South Coast Task Force on Youth Gangs for a second year. The Task Force hit a major snag this year when its director, Dr. Gus Frias, resigned six months after starting after injuring himself falling down his steps.

To date, there are no plans to replace Frias, whose performance had been the subject of some disquiet among the public agencies and nonprofits dealing with gang violence. Instead, the Community Action Commission will deploy its director and two employees to ensure that those agencies coordinate to the maximum extent possible. The Task Force was spawned, in concept, five years ago with the stabbing death of a 15-year-old by a 14-year old gang member on State Street. Only last year, however, was the funding finally put in place.

The vote was unanimous but Councilmembers Bendy White and Frank Hotchkiss pressed for assurance that the Task Force would develop some measurable criteria to define whether the program was a success or not. City Council candidate Cruzito Cruz urged the council to spend even more money on programs that would serve the city’s low-income youth. And Kate Smith, a vocal critic of the “school-to-prison pipeline,” blasted the program, saying it and others like it fomented destruction, death, and despair among those on Santa Barbara’s lower socioeconomic rungs.

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