Gang incidents impact school safety differently than non-gang incidents. Two of the biggest differences: Gang incidents are typically higher-risk for rapidly escalating violence and the use of weapons.
I spoke at the California Gang Investigators Association (CGIA) national conference in Anaheim on June 29th. My topic was on gangs and school emergency preparedness. The workshops were designed to emphasize the need for solid school emergency guidelines which are “ready to go” due to the quickly escalating and violent nature of gang violence.
Several themes and observations from other conference sessions I sat in on, as well as “hallway conversations” with CGIA officials and other attendees, should be of interest to educators and public safety officials:
- Everyone is suffering from the economic crisis. Law enforcement budgets, like education budgets, are being sliced left and right. Overtime is being cut, officers are doing more with less, and the need for “smarter” and “better targeted” enforcement with fewer resources is a sign of the times. (Sound familiar, educators?)
- Liaison across agencies and jurisdictions is critical. Gangs are mobile. Gangs communicate. So should law enforcement, educators, and their community partners.
- Knowledgeable experts on gangs are often at the grassroots level and with non-traditional partner agencies. One police commander talked about the value he saw in working with code enforcement, animal control, domestic violence shelters, child service social agencies, community-based agencies, and even cable company front-line workers. Reach out and use “force multipliers” to be more effective, especially during times of tight budgets and limited resources.
- Involve the community and include the news media to promote your efforts. Town hall meetings, youth input, and similar outreach can provide a wealth of information.
- Collect and analyze data, and implement accountability processes. Use the data to target your limited resources and to hold front-line staff and management accountable.
- Get local politicians on-board, briefed, and part of the process on the front-end. Public safety often is, or at least should be, their top priority.
These themes are good advice whether they are applied to managing gangs from a law enforcement agency perspective or if applied to managing gangs and broader violence issues at schools.
What’s working for managing gangs and school safety in your school-community?
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