The State of California aims to achieve a safe as well as drug-free community through enforcement of various prevention programs. The state officers have the duty to prevent targeted crimes in cooperation with the local as well as federal officers. They are also assisted by the local community members. One of the programs that have been implemented by the state is the Gang Violence Suppression Program which was created through the California Penal Code, Chapter 3.5 (Davis, 2003).
The program aims to minimize gang violence within the California community. It also aims to change potentially dangerous activities of gangs into more valuable as well as constructive behavior. The program helps remove dangerous weapons such as guns, explosives among others from the street. It removes violent offenders such as career criminals as well as repeat offenders from the streets of California.
The program uses CALGANG Information System to track gangs as well as their members which is necessary for investigating gang-related crimes. GVS program therefore provides funds to the California Department of Justice to operate the CALGANG System since it is the lead agency among the components of the GVS Program.
The purpose of the study is to analysis the success and the effectiveness of Gang Violence Suppression Program in California.
The Gang Violence Suppression Program has achieved significant success in reducing gangs and gang-related crimes.
Reasons for establishment
According to Justia US Law (2009), it was realized by the California legislature that gang violence and gang activities were fast growing in the state. School age pupils and students were also not left out in this and their level of involvement was increasing.
Besides, there were several schools that provided education to many youths who were involved in gang activities; however, these schools were not able to effectively implement programs which could help prevent the students from getting involved in gang activities since there was no statewide funded program in institutions for such purposes.
The legislature also found evidence that the parents of those involved in gangs do not have appropriate parenting skills considering that the youths get involved in gangs while still young. Gang involvement is usually a result of lack of positive role models (Justia US Law, 2009).
Gang Violence Suppression Program was therefore established to support the district attorneys’ offices in prosecuting offenders involved in gang violence; and the local law-enforcement agencies in crime and criminal identification, investigation as well as apprehension of suspected offenders of gang violence.
It was also implemented to assist county probation departments to provide extensive supervision to gang members on probation. It was also established to support prevention as well as intervention of gang violence through school districts. Finally, it was found that it was necessary to achieve gang violence suppression through community-based organizations (Justia US Law, 2009).
Elements of the Gang Violence Suppression Program
Suppression activities involved in the GVS Program include the use of computerized criminal identification as well as tracking systems, community based organizations, vertical prosecution in addition to specialized police response (Davis 2003). It also applies intensive probation supervision and education provision through schools.
Specialized police response
This component of GVS Program focuses mainly on developing expert gang units in law enforcement agencies so as to help in investigation, identification as well as apprehension of offenders involved in gang violence. The specialized law enforcement divisions work together with other agencies funded by the program to address gang violence problems within the community.
They share intelligence information as well as strategies. They are responsible for providing crime analysis especially in gang related crimes as well as the gangs and their members. They also facilitate processes of community policing with an aim of achieving gang suppression. The law enforcement division is also responsible for enforcing curfew as well as truancy violations.
The prosecution component carries out vertical prosecution criminals found to be involved in violent gangs. This is done by specialized prosecutors while ensuring protection to cooperating witnesses from acts of retribution as well as intimidation that could come from gang members.
They provide existing information particularly on prosecution patterns for gang-related crimes so as to help in crime analysis. They also defend against pretrial release of criminals involved violent crimes and are awaiting trial and also minimize the plea bargaining by such offenders.
This component is responsible for providing intensive supervision to offenders identified to belong to violent gangs and is put on probation so as to ensure that they adhere to the conditions of their probation. Probation component works hand in hand with law enforcement as well as prosecution agencies in enforcing some specific provisions of probation which are used for monitoring gang members who are on probation.
Here, community based organizations help in preventing as well as intervening in impending violent gang activities. They communicate and mediate with such gang members who live in the community. It also provides gang awareness education to adult members of the community and counseling programs. The component ensures cooperative working relationship among all the components by providing cultural as well as linguistic support.
The program provides gang violence prevention as well as intervention services to violent gang activities that could occur in schools. Specialized gang units are used to train school administrators, students and teachers on gang activity indicators and proper responses.
Effectiveness of GVS Program
Combined efforts of law enforcement, justice and probation institutions, community organizations and schools have produced significant results in fighting violent gangs and related crimes. According to Davis (2003) studies have shown that vertical prosecution of offenders involved in gangs and related crimes has been a very effective approach. The program has lead to reduced caseloads due to vertical prosecution; has promoted additional investigative support; and has also provided resources for supporting victims.
The program has also promoted more convictions of gang members and violent offenders. It has improved the level of commitments within the state prisons. It has provided support to the fight against narcotics crossing its borders and within the community. The law enforcement aggressively investigates tips on drug as well as gang related activity within the community.
The program helps to remove hard-core gang members who live in the community since there is intense supervision on them (Everhart & Kirby, 2003). In addition, the knowledge of the repercussions for getting involved in gang-related activities discourages other youths from active involvement. It reduces the street gang subculture through education.
Statistical Analysis of the success of the program
Statistical data of the activities of the GVS Program have shown that the program has been very effective
The table below shows the progress report of the program between 1998 and 2001. The report revealed that significant accomplishments of the objectives of the law enforcement component.
Individuals identified as gang members14,39220,56725,59560,554
Crimes investigated by special GVS unit1,7721,9731,7515,496
Gang members arrested3,0373,4562,8469,339