One of the major issues facing not only my district but also the entire state is an increase in gang activity. Gangs are not localized only in Salt Lake City or Ogden, but have spread all through the state and are hurting our children and our communities. One only needs to read the newspaper or watch the news to see the effects of these gangs.
I have participated on the committees that Mayor Becker and Governor Huntsman have put together to address this issue. I have introduced a resolution that addresses a comprehensive approach to gang-related activities. The resolution acknowledges that we need to address prevention, intervention and suppression in solving this complicated issue. Due to the funding shortfall, I believe this is a good start.
This legislative session had several bills that focus only on suppression, and as much as we need those, we need to focus on the other two aspects of the issue. My bill, S.B.74–At-Risk Student Provisions, addresses early prevention through identification by educators. Teachers spend eight hours a day with these students and often times could be the best identifiers of potential gang activity. This bill requires a local school board or governing board of a charter school to enact certain gang prevention and intervention policies. This will include keeping teachers up-to-date with information to help identify gang activity, give them tools to deal with gang activity, and help the schools to suspend extra-curricular activities while the student is in a known gang. This last part of the bill has proven extremely successful on the west side of Salt Lake City already with the S.A.L.T. Program, run by Kaisa Kinikini. I believe this will also be successful in our state, coupled with my second bill dealing with gang reduction, S.J.R. 21.
S.J.R. 21—Joint Resolution on Combating and Reducing Gang Activity—urges state and local governments to take a comprehensive, collaborative, and communitywide approach to combat and reduce gang activity. I strongly believe just one or two groups will not solve the gang problem; it is going to take a collaborative effort on the part of all involved parties to make a difference. This resolution allows for this type of collaborative effort, focusing particularly on the most effective practices. By focusing on the practices that work, we can become more and more effective at reducing gang activity in our communities.
I encourage all of you reading this to contact your legislators and tell them you support these bills, because you are tired of the gang activity in this state. Together we can call the right attention to the problems and fix this in a comprehensive manner.
As a side note, I would also like to share with you the bill tracking service on the Legislature’s webpage (http://www.le.utah.gov/asp/billtrack/track.asp). This service will allow you to track as many bills as you would like, and will even send you e-mails when the bill is on the move. It is a valuable resource you can use to become more involved, and we all know how important that is.