The student media organization of California State University Northridge

Daily Sundial

The student media organization of California State University Northridge

Daily Sundial

The student media organization of California State University Northridge

Daily Sundial

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Governor appoints new gang czar

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has created a new 10 member panel and instated a gang czar to help solve gang problems in our state.

Paul L. Seave will serve as the director of gang and youth violence policy for the governor’s California Gang Reduction, Intervention and Prevention program.

Bobby Arias, president of Communities in School, a community organization that offers several programs to work with gang members, said Seave is an individual with strong knowledge of crime issues willing to understand the scope and difficulty of dealing positively with gangs.

Arias welcomed Seave’s appointment. He said the gang czar places attention at a higher government level of the dire situation in which many youths live, particularly in Los Angeles. He said he attended 36 funerals related to gang violence last year.

“The problem with gang perception is that these kids aren’t at-risk youth,” Arias said. “The problems with gangs are deeper and linked to community origins, culture and even nationalities.”

Arias said most people who watch TV news develop the perception of gang members as outcasts who don’t belong in society. He said gangs aren’t terrorists.

“We’re trying to turn them into living people before turning them in to school,” Arias said. “Our work requires labor-intensive intervention programs.”

“It’s better to invest in these programs than to spend $55,000 a year on each inmate,” Arias said.

Communities in School has several former gang members working in gang-affiliated neighborhoods. They visit and talk to gang members about the need to sign up for vocational training programs that give them skills to enter the work force. Arias said his organization’s efforts have focused on this approach for several years.

“As the individual improves his perception and values himself as a productive member of society, the transition to regular school can take place,” Arias said.

They’ll also work and deal with K-12 students in the metropolitan area. David Brewer III, chief superintendent of the Los Angeles Unified School District, belongs to this committee.

Christina Villalobos, community relations officer for the CSUN Public Safety Department, said the creation of a 10-member advisory board to tackle gang formation should be positive because some advisors work and live in the city. They’ll also work and deal with “any type of advisory committee that helps reduce crime and gangs from the neighborhoods in the community is a good step to solve the problem,” Villalobos said.

Villalobos said CSUN is a safe campus, where there aren’t a significant number of gangs. Police officers haven’t seen any taggers or graffiti scrawlers on campus this semester, though there was an incident in which alleged gang members were caught spray painting in the northern part of campus last year, Villalobos said.

Seave was appointed to be U.S. Attorney in Sacramento by former president Bill Clinton in 1997. He also worked as prosecutor of fraud and financial cases, racketeering and arson, and mafia crimes.

Manny Velazquez, a CSUN sociology instructor who teaches a class about gang issues, said Seave’s appointment could work only if he’s willing to understand historic and cultural patterns of gang affiliation.

Velazquez said Latino gangs in communities like Canoga Park have been around for at least 50 years. New generations of gangs tend to look at previous generations and structure patterns before becoming gang members.

“Many (people) in official places don’t know about the history of gangs, and why they form,” Velazquez said. “The need for notoriety and fame of these individuals change as their needs change.”

Velazquez said he opposes any educational approach that dumps gang members into work or activities with flashy media glitches. He said he would rather keep these kids in the regular classrooms than in places full of gimmicks.

“We are living in communities where kids don’t go to the beach until they turn 18. This is segmenting the city,” Velazquez

Velazquez said that until real programs linked to community development are in place, appointees like Seave would not be very effective.

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