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Ripon council may form gang task force

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POSTED December 17, 2008 1:26 a.m.
RIPON – Combating the problem of gangs could soon be a council issue if Ripon Mayor Chuck Winn has his druthers.
During Tuesday’s meeting of the Ripon City Council, Winn proposed the formation of a gang task force during the portion of the meeting where all of the city’s current council-sponsored committees and task forces were examined for their efficiency and necessity.
While Ripon has historically maintained a reputation as a safe community, police officials believe that outside influences have led to the formation of Ripon’s own gangs – something that Winn believes needs to be addressed as soon as possible.
“I’ve been in discussion with other cities, law enforcement agencies, district attorneys, judges – and they all feel that this is becoming more of an issue for our nation and our individual communities,” Winn said. “I think that it’s about time that we took more of a community approach.
“I think that there are a lot of things that we can do as a community to let people know the signs and when they’re cropping up, and that can be a very important tool.”
Over the course of the last year, the Ripon Police Department has held several public meetings to inform the public of the current status of gang activity within Ripon’s city limits, and what to look for – hoping to inform the people that may have the first chance at preventing what could end up being a gang member.
During a recent presentation made to the Ripon Unified School Board, Ripon Police Sergeant Steve Merchant didn’t mince his words when he stated, “We used to say that we didn’t have any gang members in Ripon, we just have ‘wanna-be’ gang members – we now have hardcore gang members right here in our community.”
The statement shocked some in attendance, but helped shed light on what officers have been battling over the course of the last year – ranging from graffiti at various locations throughout town to attempted gang fights at Ripon High School.
In the eyes of Ripon Police Chief Richard Bull, the formation of a committee to address Ripon’s gang problem would be another valuable asset to add to the arsenal that officers are currently using to prevent the situation from getting out of control. They would work hand-in-hand with the outreach efforts currently being made through the informational meetings that have already yielded positive results.
“I think that in situations like this, community involvement is always something that helps,” Bull said – noting that there have been several instances where parents and teachers have called the department after recognizing several signs they learned at the meetings. “There’s no better tool to have than the people right there in your community, and when they’re educated about what to look for, it becomes a great asset.
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