Ultimatum to East Palo Alto gangs: 'Get a job'

Police and community leaders get nine targeted ex-cons to sign for job training

By Sue Dremann

Embarcadero Media

East Palo Alto police called in 11 gang members who are at risk for committing more crimes to a sit-down meeting Tuesday afternoon to warn them they will be targeted for arrest and long prison terms if they persist in committing crimes.

Called Operation Ceasefire, the state-funded program has been used in 10 inner cities to identify people at risk of re-offending and to offer them job training, counseling and other services to help them become them productive members of their community, Sgt. Jeff Liu said.

Police sent notices last week to members of The Vill gang, which operates in a section of the city known as The Village, south of University Avenue and east of Runnymede.

The 11 men met with police, the San Mateo County District Attorney's Office, the San Mateo County Sheriff's Gang Task Force, parole agents, faith leaders and social service providers, who said in no uncertain terms that violence would not be allowed to continue. A Stanford Hospital representative spoke about what happens when a person has been shot.

"We told them: 'We know who you are, and we've done research on you. You have two choices: The preferred is to stop the behavior and have job training and job-locating help -- we'll give you the tools to become successful and productive members of the community -- and the alternative is that you can not take the helping hand and continue the crime. All agencies will target you. We will make it our project to target you and to send you to prison for a long time,'" Liu said.

Law-enforcement officials delivered their message and left the room; then, service providers, including Menlo Park-based JobTrain, took over. They talked privately with the men and helped them to understand they do have a choice, he said. The participants will have case managers as they go through the program.

By the end of the session, nine men signed up, Liu said.

In the coming months, additional groups of gang members will be called in, he said. Parolees and people on probation are being approached for now, but Liu said the department wants to bring in people who are at risk but who have not yet committed crimes.

"The bottom line is … you can make a better choice. People don't have to go to prison to make East Palo Alto safer," Liu said.

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Like this comment
Posted by sadfsf
a resident of Menlo Park: Sharon Heights
on Mar 3, 2011 at 11:03 am

No one wants to go from $100/hr to $8/hr
Make drugs legal to take away their high income drug job

Like this comment
Posted by Get Real
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Mar 3, 2011 at 1:41 pm

To Sadfsf
Better $8/hr then 6 feet under. Enough of the "let's make drugs legal" dribble and let the police do their job. If the bad guys end up in jail they can all talk about how they were making $100/hr

Like this comment
Posted by dribble
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Mar 3, 2011 at 4:24 pm

This meeting cost how much money?

ONE of those gentlemen goes to prison and it's going to cost you $40,000. Never mind that in the process you might have some of your property damaged, or your property devalued, or worse, someone you love is killed.

GREAT JOB!!! You do need to take the money away from the dealers and the cartels somehow. It's been destroying neighborhoods, families, and whole segments of our country for too long. It's destroying OTHER countries!

Now, why is marijuana considered such a big bad evil? Other drugs? OK! Marijuana?? Really? Let's talk about the other real killers in society tobacco and alcohol. Someone selling marijuana is NOT worth $40,000 in jail per year! We've tried prohibitions on alcohol. These other drug pushers are the real reason that marijuana is still considered an evil.

Like this comment
Posted by Ed Washington
a resident of Atherton: West Atherton
on Mar 3, 2011 at 5:32 pm

What a great approach. Good job community service agencies, faith leaders, et al! If anyone questions the effectiveness of this approach, please read a great book called Tattoos on the Heart by Gregory Boyle, founder of Homeboy Industries in Los Angeles. Father Boyle is very compelling in telling the story that few if any of the young men and women in gangs really want to be there. Rather, life looks so bleak they see no alternative. It is very uplifting to hear of enlightened people in our community taking such positive action.

Like this comment
Posted by Jon Castor
a resident of Woodside: Woodside Heights
on Mar 3, 2011 at 5:46 pm

This program is a great idea. I hope it proves successful. Promising start that 9 of 11 signed up. Would be good to see follow up reporting on how these 9 progress: whether they stay with and complete the training and are ultimately able to land and keep a job.

Like this comment
Posted by Jimmy Sigona
a resident of another community
on Mar 3, 2011 at 7:27 pm

Great program. I think the gang members should not just be targeted if they do not sign up, but also be targeted when they do sign up. They should be targeted not to fail this program for the long run. That means the gangs around them are targeted to not coerce them back into the life. That means their emotional intelligence and social intelligence are targeted for education so they have a chance to catch up. And their family's are targeted for coaching on how to support these potentially contributing members of society in this change in their lives.

It all depends on the definition of success for Operation Ceasefire.

The Code of The Street by Elijah Anderson has great insight regarding a social science look at the situation. This book focuses mostly on inner-city youth but is a great perspective for suburban youth as well.

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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