Mayors Fighting Gangs: Better Policing Works, “Scared Straight” Doesn’t


Fresno, Ca., population 500,000, has about 70 police officers fighting gangs, says Mayor Ashley Swearengin. Chair of the U.S. Conference of Mayors’ task force of mayors and police chiefs. Swearengin ran a session on gangs yesterday at the mayors’ annual winter conference in Washington, D.C., McClatchy Newspapers report. Fresno’s violent crime total dropped 27 percent between 2002 and 2012 after police used a variety of tactics, including better technology and data analysis. Other mayors tossed in suggestions, with Columbia, S.C., Mayor Steve Benjamin citing his city's use of adult mentors, summer camps, a youth commission and evening sports. “Hopefully, when they leave (the night sports), they'll be so tired they'll just go home,” he said.

New director of the federal COPS office, former East Palo Alto, Ca., Chief Ronald Davis, told the mayors they should “ensure that the police department is not the sole agency that deals with community policing. Public safety has to be a shared responsibility.” Assistant Attorney General Karol Mason added that some anti-gang programs may sound good, but may not be proved effective. The popular “scared straight” program of exposing young offenders to hardened criminals, Mason said, “doesn't work.” That was a bit of a shock to several of the mayors, who noted that a variation of “scared straight” is used in their communities.

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