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Gascón aims to curb youth violence

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Posted: Saturday, September 2, 2006 6:15 am

Violent crime among youths is on the rise nationwide and Mesa police Chief George Gascón hopes to do something about it. Stopping youth violence isn’t solely a police issue, and this week Gascón said he plans to reach out to churches, schools, the YMCA and the community to help teens stay out of trouble.

Gascón said he is looking for long-term solutions that are sustainable. “Suppression alone doesn’t work,” he said.

In 2005, the number of homicides in Mesa rose to 34, up from 22 the year before, said Sgt. Chuck Trapani, police spokesman. So far this year, there have been 24 homicides.

Armed robberies climbed from 65 in 2004 to 91 in 2006 as of Aug. 28; however, strongarm robberies, which don’t involve a weapon, dropped from 57 in 2004 to 28 in 2006 as of Aug. 28.

The increase in homicides and armed robberies is occurring in large cities nationwide, not just Mesa, and was the topic of discussion at a national summit Gascón attended this week in Washington, D.C.

At the meeting hosted by the think tank Police Executive Research Forum, authorities discussed the upswing in violent crime and the increase in youths involved in the activity.

“We’re somewhat mirroring what’s happening in major cities,” Gascón said.

Gascón’s relationship with the forum dates back to 2000 and his days with the Los Angeles Police Department. This relationship landed him a spot at the high-level, invitation-only summit.

Gascón said attending the summit, where participants asked him where Mesa is located, was important for the Mesa Police Department as it provided the chance to engage in a national dialogue. Agencies from cities including Los Angeles, Boston, Chicago, Miami, and Washington were at the event.

While authorities recognize the violence problem, Gascón is still formulating communityoutreach plans. He said he has informally talked to Mesa Unified School District Superintendent Debra Duvall about intervention in the schools.

In addition to addressing youth violence, Mesa now has the opportunity to set a trend in policing that other agencies could follow — photo enforcement technology.

During a time when police are complaining about having fewer officers and more crime, Gascón said there are opportunities in technology as photo enforcement provides a way to prevent traffic crashes.

Gascón said that one day cameras could be placed in corridors and aid police in checking license plates on vehicles for connections to crimes.

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