|After naming gang violence as a top concern, the City Council put its money where its mouth is Tuesday by voting to permanently fund a police gang program.
Five other top goals for the year were approved as well, including a Cuesta Annex master plan, more positive activities for youth, Rengstorff neighborhood revitalization, a revenue development plan and the long-needed Rengstorff Avenue underpass at the railroad tracks.
After a string of assaults and murders involving youth over the past year, the council gave the police department $180,000 towards the creation of a Youth Services Unit that police hope will become instrumental in reducing the city's gang activity and youth violence. The money will fund a new full-time sergeant position and match a grant from the state for $160,000 to go towards counseling youth.
Council member Nick Galiotto, a former Mountain View police officer, was adamant that the sergeant's position be permanent. He said the situation was "deja vu" -- in the 1970s the police department also sought juvenile diversion when the juvenile justice system wasn't serving the youth well.
"The gang problem is not going to go away," Galiotto said. "We give it attention and the problem decreases." But if the city turns its funding and attention to other things, "it goes back up."
According to Police Chief Scott Vermeer, the Youth Service Unit will "significantly increase our efforts and resources dedicated and tasked with diversion, prevention and intervention of youth before they enter significant criminal delinquency, gangs, or to help them exit from gang life."
The approved $180,000 will go towards a full-time sergeant who will work with another non-sworn, full-time officer moved from within the department. Also in the unit are two part-time counselors who will likely come from the Community Health Awareness Council -- paid for by the state grant for two and half years.
The department's existing school resource officers would also become a part of the unit, as well as the department's gang suppression officers who work both on gang prevention and as detectives.
Earlier this year, Mountain View was the only small city to win a grant from the California Gang Reduction, Intervention and Prevention Program.
The council approved the police funding 5-1, with Mayor Tom Means absent and member Matt Pear opposed.
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