|On Monday night the City Council set about picking new goals for the year, with gang prevention making the top of the list and a plan to increase city revenues coming in second.
Continuing a council discussion from March 18 where gang issues were a top concern, Police Chief Scott Vermeer said he wants a handful of officers dedicated to early gang member identification and intervention, reaching out to them as they grow up.
"Once we lose them to juvenile hall, we are perpetuating their delinquency," Vermeer said. "Right now, that's one of our only options."
Vermeer provided some statistics that shed light on the issue of gang violence. Data showed that police made contact with gang members more and more every year from 2000 to 2007. There were also spikes in gang violence in the 1990s similar to what the city is experiencing now.
"A review of the last 20 years of Mountain View data indicates that gang crimes and juvenile arrests have been cyclical," Vermeer wrote in a report to council members. "There is a pattern of spikes in the number of gang crimes and juvenile arrests followed by a focused effort by the police department and a corresponding dip in those numbers."
Six of the 10 homicides between 2000 and 2008 were gang related or involved gang members, compared to two of 12 homicides between 1992 and 1999. A larger majority of attempted homicides were also gang related over the last eight years.
To help counter the allure of gang activity, the council chose "positive activities for youth," as one of its six new priorities. The positive activities include "opportunities for volunteering, jobs, accountability and skill building."
Mayor Tom Means thought the gains would be "marginal" because the middle and high schools already provide after-school activities.
"Not everyone is involved in sports," said council member Ronit Bryant.
"What about music, drama, literature?" Means said. "What's missing? Jobs?"
Vermeer said he appreciated the council making it a new goal to revitalize Rengstorff Park and the surrounding neighborhood, which is one of the city's "hotspots" of gang activity.
A new teen center was advocated by several youth and youth advocates. The council is discussing such a center at Rengstorff Park as part of its capital improvement program, though the $50 million price tag may require a bond measure.
Also on the list of top goals is the city's longtime pursuit of an expensive Rengstorff Avenue undercrossing at the railroad tracks, which could be funded by the VTA.
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