(KCPW News) A year after a gang-related shooting claimed the life of a west side 7-year-old girl, Salt Lake City is launching a comprehensive program to reduce the growing gang problem. Retired State Sergeant Ron Stallworth, co-chairman of the city's gang committee, says this program differs from previous efforts because it involves community partners.
"The whole idea is to get everybody involved to address this problem. We put too much emphasis on the law enforcement component," Stallworth says. "Law enforcement cannot do this. If it could have, it would have."
The program will bring together various community groups and a team of intervention specialists. These civilian specialists will work directly with gang members and at-risk youth to connect them with jobs, education, skills training, tattoo removal and re-entry programs for prisoners and juvenile offenders.
Salt Lake City Police Chief Chris Burbank says he's excited about the plan because it addresses prevention, rather than just enforcement.
"By the time the young person down the street is engaged in activity that requires police department to be there, it is often too late for us to do effective intervention and prevention," Burbank says. "And that's what this is all about."
The effort is one of the only new programs to get city funding for next year. But officials say the public needs to be patient, because it will take time for it to be effective.