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Salt Lake City mayor seeks gang reduction plan

Salt Lake City mayor seeks gang reduction plan

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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- The mayor of Utah's largest city has appointed a focus group to study ideas that reduce gang-related crime.

Mayor Ralph Becker's "Gang Reduction Forum" includes state and local government leaders, criminal justice experts, school district leaders and representative of nonprofit and community groups. The group has held three meetings so far.

"We recognize there is a problem. We want to better understand the problem, our resources, our strengths and our weaknesses," Becker said in a prepared statement issued Saturday.

Becker and city police Chief Chris Burbank concede that despite knowing that hundreds of identified gang members live in Salt Lake City, there is no comprehensive gang prevention plan in place.

The city's gang problem was highlighted in July when a 7-year-old girl was killed during a drive-by shooting outside her Salt Lake City home. Police said the child was an innocent victim who got caught in a squabble between members of rival gangs.

The forum will study existing gang reduction models and look for programming alternatives to gang prevention, intervention and suppression.

Michael Clara, an activist who has criticized the city its slow reaction to the problem, said Becker's forum will only work if there's money to pay for anti-gang programming.

"We're just going to sit around and talk? That's what's frustrating about this. What we need is funding," said Clara. "We know what we're doing now is not working."

Clara said few intervention or mentoring programs exist for Salt Lake City teens involved in gangs. He also said the city needs to expand anti-gang programs in schools.

Information from: The Salt Lake Tribune

(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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