Santa Clara Co. launches anti-gang campaign

April 24, 2009 12:59:46 PM PDT
The Santa Clara County District Attorney announced Thursday that her office is blanketing the county with an ad campaign designed to discourage kids and teens from affiliating with a gang, and offer resources for those at risk.

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In a press conference Thursday, District Attorney Dolores Carr and local elected officials unveiled a series of ads that will run on billboards, television, radio, and public transportation across Santa Clara County.

The ads are designed to drive kids and family members to a new GangFree Resource Hotline, (408) 808-FREE (3733). The hotline will be staffed from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday, according to district attorney spokesman Nick Muyo.

Bilingual staffers can offer resources in English and Spanish to anyone who is at risk of joining a gang, or already involved. Resources are also available for anyone concerned about a friend, family member or loved one, Muyo said. A host of other resources are also on offer, pertaining to domestic violence, drug and alcohol abuse, and quitting smoking, among other topics.

Muyo noted that the hotline is not intended for crisis situations, which would be redirected to 911.

Television and radio ads will broadcast in English and Spanish, Muyo said. A total of 500 posters will go up on Santa Clara Valley Transit Authority light rail and buses.

"In essence, every light rail vehicle and every VTA bus in motion in the county at any given time will have one of our posters inside," he said.

The VTA and City of San Jose are also partners in the campaign.

Muyo said the hotline will be staffed through July. At that point, Carr's office will evaluate how to best continue the program, based on the number of calls.

An April kickoff date was chosen, he said, to coincide with increased gang recruiting at the end of the school year.

The campaign, Muyo said, is an attempt to break the cycle of becoming involved only after a kid has joined a gang and committed an offense.

"Rather than put these kids in juvenile hall, this is an opportunity for us to try to get in front of the issue," he said.

San Jose's own gang prevention task force also met at 7 p.m. Thursday night in the city hall committee rooms. Up for discussion were gang hot spots within the city, an anti-graffiti survey and summer work programs for at-risk youth.

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