Justice summit tries to tackle drug, gang problems

May 29, 2012 8:10:46 PM PDT
On Tuesday, in San Francisco there was an attempt to tackle the drug and gang problem head-on. A cross-section of people from cops, to sociologists, to former gang members came together looking for solutions.

A bill now pending the state legislature would reduce drug possession from a felony to a misdemeanor.

"I have seen the War on Drugs from the ground up," said San Francisco District Attorney George Gascon. He is the only district attorney in the state who supports the measure. "I don't think that economically we can continue to incarcerate people that are simply being prosecuted for possession of drugs."

Gascon argued his point as a panelist discussing drug reform. In opposition, there was the California District Attorneys Association.

"This measure, while purportedly to help individuals get treatment, we feel that as misdemeanor offenses, there is no incentive for individuals to engage," said Marty Vranicar from the California District Attorneys Association.

"I was incarcerated for 28 years," said German Yambao, a United Playaz Case worker.

Yambao served a long time for second degree murder. He now counsels troubled teens.

"We have a different kind of youth now, where a lot of the youth are a product of the drug culture," said Yambao.

The justice summit was hosted by public defender Jeff Adachi. Its goal was to bring law enforcement and community based organizations together to work on solutions.

While there's a wider division on how to fight the War on Drugs, there appears to be more of a consensus on how to reduce gang violence. A UCLA study has been tracking 300 gang members for almost four years. UCLA Professor Jorja lLap, Ph.D., heads the project. She lists the most important ways to reduce gang violence.

"The two most important forces are the families and the schools. Those are the anchors," said lLap.

All of the panelists discussing gangs also agreed that everyone has to be on the same page to prevent violence.

"The message was drummed into us that we need to all be working together and have a common goal. And that's where I think communication and trust is huge," said SFPD investigations Cmdr. Michael Biel.

In other words, it takes the 'hood to save a 'hood.


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