The Sacramento Police Department has launched a youth unit to combat gang activity and violence, says the Sacramento Bee. The police cite a county report that shows a long-term increase in the number of juveniles arrested for violent crimes and a growing population of at-risk youth. The unit is geared toward enforcement, but also directs teens into programs led by schools, community groups and faith-based organizations. “It’s like a competition,” said police Capt. Daniel Hahn. “Either the community attracts the young people with something to belong to, or the gangs attract them.”
The catalyst for the unit was a recent report that shows the number of youth crimes involving weapons and violence – murder, rape, robbery and assault – rising 73 percent from 1981 to 2003 in Sacramento County. When measured against population growth, the rate of violent crimes involving youth actually dropped 21 percent in Sacramento between 1990 and 2003. Hahn said the need for the division will increase as the county’s youth population continues to soar. Sacramento County Undersheriff John McGinness said he is struck by the disregard for human life.