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Ripon Police making headway into gang problem
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RIPON – Before school started last fall, Ripon Police officers had their hands full chasing gang-members and graffiti artists all over town.

While the two are typically synonymous, officers quickly discovered that the problems that they were tracking down and trying to eradicate were both increasing and involving even larger numbers of people than originally thought – eventually leading department brass to assign Special Investigations Unit members Sgt. Sharon Johnson and Det. Ken Husman to combat the problems.

And through stepped-up enforcement at strategic areas throughout town, the problem with gangs – specifically with those around schools which were one of the major targets of gang graffiti during the summer – started to dwindle.

“With the resources that we committed to this, and the work that our SIU officers did, we’ve made a great impact,” Police Chief Richard Bull said. “Our officers are working diligently across the board to keep the problem at a minimum.”

Several times over the course of the school year, Johnson and Husman joined Investigations Supervisor Sgt. Steve Merchant to host community forums after school to help educate parents on the signs that they can look for if they suspect that their student or their friends are starting to become involved with gang activity.

While Merchant said that at one time Ripon only had “wanna be” gang members, they now have documented hardcore gang members living within the city limits. It is something that officers are very aware of and keep very close tabs on to ensure that there aren’t any major incidents that could jeopardize the lives of young children or innocent residents.

Taking the message to the schools has also had a big impact on cutting down on gang-related activities both on campus and in the classroom.

The combination of the SIU officers and School Resource Officers Matt Ford and Scott Lindsay have been diligent in informing both teachers and administrators about warning signs that range from manners of dress to markings left on school books – instructing them to inform administrators immediately so that the problems can be documented and deal with accordingly.

“We still have problems here in town when it comes to gangs, but the combination of education and early recognition help us tremendously,” Bull said. “As long as we can identify those who are involved in gangs we still might have somewhat of a chance to turn that person around.

“And by documenting their involvement, we have something that we can turn over to the District Attorney if the need arises.”

For more information about the warning signs of early exposure to gangs, or to report suspicious activity, contact the Ripon Police Department at 599-2102.