Among the items on my list of top 3 things I'd like the Menifee city council to address is gangs.
Living close to Perris, Lake Elsinore, Hemet, our city can be easily be swept up by gangs, and the name "Menifee" will become as synonymous as those three neighboring cities.
Last night on Menifee Valley Talk Radio, Jerry Lopez, a Senior Deputy District Attorney, and head of the Riverside County Gang Task Force—Prevention and Intervention, was on air talking about the gang problem in Riverside County. While he didn't have statistics on gangs here in Menifee, he did have some data county-wide...
- From 1997 to 2006, Riverside County added 122 new gangs, and 2,600 gang members
- From 2006 to 2007, Riverside County added 133 more gangs, and 1,300 more gang members
- Southern California is the mecca for gangs, with Los Angeles County being the most gang-infested area in the entire world.
And that's only counting the gangs and gang members that law-enforcement has records on.
The Root Problem
Lopez said that the problem all starts with poor parenting. He hit this theme hard enough that one could make the assumption that if your child is associating with a gang, that you yourself are a poor parent. He said it's not a financial matter, or an ethnic matter. He went on to say that there could be excellent parents living in Rubidoux, and bad parents living Canyon Lake.
His solution is that parents need to take classes on parenting. He said that when a new baby is born, a hospital ought to offer parenting classes. When a child enters school, schools ought to offer parenting classes. When a child graduates high school, that child ought to take parenting classes.
Failure to Start a Relationship
The poor parenting that Lopez described largely had to do with a failure to establish a relationship between the parent and child. Parents often claim that they're spending time with their kids, being involved in their schooling, and watching what they're getting into. But he said that's not really what he's talking about.
He said that parents are not giving their kids a meaningful relationship, built on love, respect, as well as a working relationship where the two establish goals towards making achievements. Young persons feel they have certain talents they want to develop, and that the development of these skills raises their self-esteem. If they can't develop these talents through their parents, they associate with other kids to achieve that collectively.
Gangs use these all of these things as lures to get them in.
What Can the City of Menifee Do?
I suppose offering these parenting classes is a step, but I think that most parents won't attend. I tend to think that there already are parenting classes out there.
I'd like to see more community-oriented events. The "Movies in the Park" at La Ladera Park ought to continue after the city takes over from the County. That's an excellent example of parents and their children spending an outing together. Let's get this into more of our parks.
Another thing working against Menifee is that most of our families have one or two parents that commute long distances to work and back. They can't always attend the Movies in the Park, or can't get back home in time to take them to Karate classes, or soccer practice, etc. Getting more high paying jobs into Menifee will give parents more time with their kids.
In terms of contracting with the Sheriff, Lopez said that for every gang member they put into prison, there's another 10-20 kids waiting to take that person's place. It's a case of supply outgrowing the demand, and so much so, that kids are starting new gangs altogether.
I don't know if it'll make any difference, but perhaps just having our city council adopt a mission statement that Menifee will be a "family-focused" city, might be the first step towards making Menifee a bad place for gangs to exist.