Salinas summit fights gangs

Local, state, federal officials to gather next month

Herald Salinas Bureau
Updated: 08/25/2009 09:15:39 AM PDT

LouisFetherolfSeeking to make the city a “fusion center” for local, state and federal law enforcement efforts aimed at gang violence, Salinas Mayor Dennis Donohue and Police Chief Louis Fetherolf announced Monday plans for a gang summit in town next month.

Set for Sept. 24, the summit is designed to host about 100 senior law enforcement officials, including U.S. Attorney’s Office Northern District law enforcement coordinator Annemarie Conroy; Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s gang “czar” and CalGRIP director Paul Seave; representatives from the FBI; Drug Enforcement Agency; the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms; the Internal Revenue Service; and Immigration and Customs Enforcement, among others.

Local officials expected to attend include District Attorney Dean Flippo, Sheriff Mike Kanalakis, representatives of the county’s Joint Gang Task Force, and Salinas city officials.

The summit will be held 8:30a.m. to 4:30p.m. at the Salinas Sports Complex meeting room.

Donohue called the summit an “extraordinary gathering” of top-level officials that indicates a willingness and intention from them to participate in local gang suppression efforts. He said the summit’s goal is to secure an increased commitment of resources and a greater concentration of enforcement aimed at fighting gang violence.

Fetherolf said that Salinas is only the epicenter of the area’s problem with “gangster-terrorists,” noting that it affects the entire region, and by extension the state and the nation. As a result, he said, it makes sense to bring in as much help as possible, noting that there are already “federal assets in place” in Salinas.

“What happens in Salinas often happens elsewhere, too,” Fetherolf said.

The new police chief, who took over in April, noted the occasional reluctance of small communities to ask for outside help, but called the fight against gangs a collaborative effort that he is just happy to be a part of.

Fetherolf said the summit will be part of a “long-term vision” for fighting gangs in the area. Last month, the police chief presented a 40-page report to city officials that called for expanding his department’s capacity by adding more officers and making other upgrades, largely aimed at improving the police department’s ability to fight gangs.

Partly in response to that report, Salinas city officials placed a 1-cent sales tax measure, dubbed Measure K, on the Nov. 3 ballot. The measure is designed to raise about $18 million to $20 million per year, much of it to be earmarked for law enforcement priorities.

After a particularly bloody string of gang-related slayings that claimed seven lives from late July to early August, the city has experienced a lull in the violence for about two weeks. The respite coincides with ramped-up enforcement efforts, including assistance from Sheriff’s deputies, California Highway Patrol officers and others.

But Donohue said the recent absence of gang shootings doesn’t change the need to continue long-term efforts.

“We always like a quiet weekend but we know we have work to do,” he said.

After a record 25 homicides last year, Salinas already has seen 21 this year, all of them believed to be gang-related.

Donohue said more details about the meeting’s format will be offered later, although he said there likely would be some opportunity for public participation.

Work continues on a draft collaborative plan to address gang violence in the county following a request by Rep. Sam Farr, D-Carmel.

The draft plan reviewed at a meeting earlier this month is expected to go to the Board of Supervisors by the end of next month.

Posted by on Aug 26 2009. Filed under News. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

1 Comment for “Salinas summit fights gangs”

  1. Title…

    Ugh, I just wrote a mega comment, but it disappeared when I hit send. Anyway, I’m not going to retype it again, so I just wanted to say great blog! 8>)…

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