Deputies want to head off gangs
The dog days of summer, boredom kicks in, kids mill around looking for activities to fill their free summer hours. Park City abounds with opportunities of all kinds for children to explore, unfortunately not all of these opportunities are positive. Sheriff Dave Edmunds said the Summit County Sheriff’s Office has noticed an increase in gang-related activity over the summer months in the form of graffiti and other unwanted behavior. According to Edmunds, an increased number of documented gang members have been identified in Summit County.
Edmunds and his staff would like to proactively address the problem by sending the message that this behavior is not wanted here. Community groups are working with the Sheriff’s office to get involved. Edmunds and his staff have been involved in an ongoing collaboration with educators and administrators at all three area school districts.
Gang specialist Detective Andrew Burton will give a lunch-time talk at a Park City Agencies Coming Together (ACT) meeting this Wednesday. ACT is an informal community forum that brings together diverse groups dealing with challenges facing low-income community members. ACT was founded with the goal of opening a dialogue between separate community agencies that may be working on similar projects with common concerns.
ACT meets once a month and this month welcomes Burton as guest speaker. According to Burton, his presentation will serve as a "gangs 101" introduction to gangs in the Utah area. The talk will cover gang statistics and indicators of gang presence. These signs include graffiti, style of dress, and tattoos. Burton said the intention of the talk is to educate listeners so they can be part of a community solution. Burton acknowledged that the police are only a small portion of the solution making the collaboration with the community so important.
Heather Renyolds, youth services librarian at the Park City Library and ACT member said, "Most of us are still kind of shocked that there is gang activity in the area at all." Renyolds continued by saying she has noticed the graffiti around town and expects that Burtons’ talk will help her recognize what graffiti may be linked to a certain gang. Burton said he would like community members to be able to recognize the problem when it presents itself.
Edmunds said that although Park City doesn’t have a huge problem, they are moving to take a proactive approach in curbing the issue. In an email Burton explained that, "The community solution to the gang problem is not all about enforcement. It’s about recognition, intervention, prevention, education, and finally/lastly, enforcement." Burton hopes this talk will plant the seed for future talks on the subject throughout the community.
ACT has invited all of its members to the meeting. Member groups include education representatives and board members, social work groups, religious groups, county health officials, and local non-profits among others.
Past ACT meetings lead to the creation of a coordinated effort to organize activities to entertain children living in affordable housing. The problem was identified by an apartment manager at one of these units. The program was Spearheaded by Holy Cross Ministries and funded by the United Way. According to Pat Sanger, ACT coordinator, it’s an effort to curb boredom and entertain unsupervised children. Renyolds said this is an example of proactive effort to curb unwanted behavior by working with the kids to help them gain self-confidence.
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