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We have a gang problem in SLO County

I wanted to just come out and say that as others either aren’t aware of this or don’t want to talk about it. The Sherriff’s department recently went to the Board of Supervisors asking for additional staffing for gang prevention.

The Times Press Recorder, a 5-cities local paper, published an editorial in last Wednesday’s paper about the request for additional resources to try to stop (or at least slow down) the gangs coming into the County. The editorial tries to downplay the gang problem in the County by saying that Santa Maria has 2400 known gang members but SLO County only has 1200 known gang members.

Unbelieveable! Yes Santa Maria has a bigger gang problem which only should raise a very LARGE red flag that we need to do more to stop the gangs at the County line. 2400 of Santa Barbara County’s 3100 total gang members are in Santa Maria.

We have 2 deputies currently in the gang task force to serve the entire County and the 31 known gangs. What is also fact is that the 18th Street Gang recently has entered our County. Wikipedia calls this gang “the most violent and aggressive street gang in the country”. It’s just a matter of time before the city of SLO has gangs too as they are coming down from the North and coming up from the South.

I don’t think there is a choice. We have to put the effort to prevent the gangs from growing in our County. We either pay now or pay later. While the Times Press Recorder may say that cutting other department budgets to pay for increased gang prevention is too painful, I don’t see we have a choice. We need to protect our economy and tourism is a big piece of that. What will be the impact on tourist revenue if we start having gang shootings or stabbings on Pismo Beach or in San Luis Obispo? Don’t people realize that we have gangs from other areas (like Fresno and Bakersfield) visting the beaches every year? What will happen when a local gang claims those beaches as their turf??

If we just sit back and wait to react to gang crimes, we’re going to need to invest in expanding Juvenile Hall and the County Jail. Seems like that approach will be LOTS more expensive to come up with the money to build those facilities plus staff them 24 x 7. Neighborhood home values are also at risk. Why isn’t there a Megan’s List-like database for all known gang members?

Gangs are a threat to our Quality of Life that we treasure here on the Central Coast. Shouldn’t this be the #1 priority for residents and every business that relies on the tourist industry? While I hate to bring up another tax, maybe a Quality of Life tax to protect what we have here is the only way we can find a quick source of funding. I don’t think we have time to sit around and talk about future places where we may get funding from.

If you want to learn more about the current situation, read this document which is the proposal to the County Board of Supervisors and an addendum of gang information in our County submitted by multiple law enforcement agencies.

Written by Keith Byrd - Go to Keith's Website/Profile