Proactive approach helps keep Dublin gang-free

March 18, 2011 7:26:43 PM PDT
Gang problems are not unique to large cities; the suburbs have their share of problems too. But one East Bay city credits its proactive approach with making it virtually gang-free.

While large cities like Oakland use injunctions and increasingly aggressive tactics to combat gangs, Dublin is taking a kinder, gentler approach, a program called Care, Not Cuffs.

"Most kids go to gangs because there's some issue in the family and they're looking for some kind of structure and support, so when you identify gang members you want to take a look at what the family situations like, what's going on there," Dublin Police Chief Tom McCarthy said.

Dublin favors prevention over reaction. It involves partnering with local youth groups and schools.

Theresa Young is an assistant principal at Dublin High School, where administrators intervene immediately when a student is identified as at-risk for gang affiliation.

"We pull in the family, we have a parent meeting, we have our counselors there, we have our administrators there, we have our school resource officer and we put things into place that will help that at-risk student," Young said.

Dublin's approach seems to be working, at least when you consider the number of documented gang members in the city.

"I have one validated gang member in Dublin right now that I'm aware of and I've checked with my gang guys," McCarthy said.

Livermore, Dublin's larger neighbor to the east, does have its share of gang members, primarily Nortenos and Surenos.

"I've heard numbers as high as we have, like, 300 gang members in the high school and that's completely ridiculous," Livermore Police Chief Steve Sweeney said.

Sweeney estimates Livermore's gang members number in the dozens, not hundreds. Still, last weekend in the middle of the day a gang dispute led to gunfire downtown, injuring two teenagers.

"I can't deny that we have some gang activity here in our city, we take it very seriously and it's a high priority for us," Sweeney said.

Like Dublin, in Livermore the anti-gang effort is focused on keeping young people away from them in the first place.

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