Police begin new program to steer kids away from gangs

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SALT LAKE CITY -- Salt Lake City police launched a new program Tuesday to keep kids out of gangs. It goes beyond law enforcement by including intervention through community action.

Police and the community will actively reach out to gang members, at-risk kids and their families. That's what members of the Salt Lake County Metro Gang Unit did last week during a saturation operation, which targeted suspected gang members.

In six days, officers made 134 traffic stops on vehicles with possible gang members inside. They generated 103 criminal cases, documented 34 gang members, arrested 10 people for felony crimes and 18 for misdemeanors, and took three weapons off the street.

Gang members spend several hours and days courting kids into the gang. Now we're going to court those kids away from the gang.

–- Salt Lake police Lt. Isaac Atencio

Officers say that's about average for what they typically do in a week. But this time, police and community organizations made contact with family members of the gang members.

As part of the program, officers plan to visit families when they come in contact with gang members. They want to offer resources to families and alternatives for kids.

"They have after-school activities. They have the Boys and Girls Club. There are some community centers, but I don't think, at this point, that anybody has gone out and actively tried to recruit those kids into these programs, and that's what we want to do," said Salt Lake police Lt. Isaac Atencio.

Leticia Medina, director of Colors of Success, said, "You know, we're not expecting to go in and have these kids respond to us immediately. It's a relationship we have to form with these families and with these kids."

These efforts came about after the mayor's Gang Reduction Forum last summer. The program is called the Community Gang Action Team, or Gang CAT.

Police say Gang CAT will target gang issues in three ways: intervention, prevention and suppression.

For a list of resources for families, CLICK HERE.

E-mail: syi@ksl.com

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Sandra Yi


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