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Manteca gang ranks drop by 203

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POSTED December 17, 2008 11:33 p.m.
Manteca Police have reduced the number of documented gang members living inside the city limits by 203.
Police Chief Dave Bricker credits the drop to three things:
• increased police pressure that has prompted many gang members to move to cities where they can operate with less hassle from law enforcement.
•  successful prosecution.
• individuals dropping gang affiliation.
“The voters made it clear in their support of Measure M that they wanted gangs and drug activity addressed,” Bricker said.
The first thing the beefed up gang unit that’s now at five officers did was go through its files of documented and potential gang members. They either updated those documented before to make sure they still qualified for enhanced sentencing if caught and convicted of crimes and researched the background of others not documented as gang members.
During the Measure M half cent sales tax campaign over two years ago, then Police Chief Charlie Halford repeatedly noted the city had 200 documented gang members and up to 1,000 affiliates.
The gang unit, after it was formed, was able to document 515 gang members in Manteca by keeping closer tabs on the “affiliates.”
Documenting gang members is more than a mere exercise. It allows automatic enhanced sentencing for crimes once they are convicted.
Bricker used the example of a gang member who was involved in three drive-by shootings several years ago. One included hailing a taxi and doing the drive-by from the back of the cab. No one was hit in any of the three shootings.
Had he not been a documented gang member, he could have ended up with just a maximum sentence ranging from three to five years. But under state law because he was a documented gang member, the judge had no choice but to sentence him to 68 years in prison after his conviction. He is not eligible for parole until he has served 85 percent of his sentence.
Among the ways police can document gang members are:
• those that identify themselves as a gang member.
• those who have done a crime in connection with a gang regardless of its severity.
• those who have tattoos proclaiming they are gang members.
Bricker said the city’s gang strategy is to try and divert youth from joining, helping those who want to get out by getting rid of tattoos and to get involved with more positive pursuits, and pressure.
Bricker noted there are a lot of alternatives for youth in Manteca that police can steer kids at risk to — the Boys & Girls Club, Give Every Child a Chance, Scouting and other youth organizations.
He also credited the faith-based community that has stepped up to support the Chief’s Initiative to fund anti-gang and anti-drug programs that are at risk of being cut due to the city’s financial situation as providing Manteca with another effective anti-gang tool.
“If you want to get out, we’ll help you, but if you don’t we’re going to be unmerciful keeping pressure on you,” Bricker said.
He credits his officers, who he said are extremely dedicated, with making the big difference.
Bricker said Manteca with five officers assigned exclusively to gangs, now has the biggest gang unit of any city of its size in the Central Valley. Three years ago, Manteca did not even have a dedicated gang unit although they had two officers who specialized in gangs along with other duties.
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