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Gang Reduction Task Force Meeting Held
Wednesday, January 14, 2009

ATTORNEY GENERAL BRINGS GANG REDUCTION STRATEGY TO NORTHEAST FLORIDA

TALLAHASSEE, FL – Attorney General Bill McCollum and members of the
Coordinating Council on Gang Reduction Strategies today joined elected and
government officials, law enforcement, nonprofit group leaders, school
administrators and the business community in Northeast Florida to continue
implementing Florida’s first-ever statewide gang reduction strategy. The
strategy is being implemented using regional task forces throughout the
state, and today’s organizational session in St. Augustine follows last
month’s regional task force meetings in Fort Walton Beach and Tallahassee.

“I’m gratified to see the participation of Northeast Florida’s community
leaders in our aggressive statewide strategy to rid our neighborhoods of
gang violence and related crimes,” said Attorney General McCollum.
“Florida’s citizens deserve to live in gang-free neighborhoods, and my
office is committed to ensuring the success of this effort in every corner
of the state.”

Gang activity in Florida has grown to more than 1,500 active criminal
gangs with over 65,000 gang members. These gangs are also the primary
sales force for illicit drugs in our state and cause much of the violent
crime. The prevalence of gang activity hurts business as well as
neighborhoods, as organized retail theft costs the industry $32 billion
nationwide every year.

Key to the strategy’s success is a cooperative and collaborative effort
that addresses the three goals of stopping the growth of gangs in Florida,
reducing the number of gangs and gang members, and rendering the remaining
gangs ineffectual. Participants at the Region 1 Gang Reduction Task Force
Organizing Session are focusing on the areas of prevention/intervention,
law enforcement, and rehabilitation and re-entry. Region 3 encompasses
Nassau, Baker, Union, Bradford, Alachua, Putnam, Marion, Clay, Duval, St.
Johns, Flagler, Gilchrist, and Levy counties.

“We aren't just dealing with mere low level ‘wanna-be’ gang members
anymore,” said Clay County Sheriff Rick Beseler, the chairman of the
Region 3 task force. “Many incidents of drug trafficking and violent crime
in our region can be traced back to gang members by our investigators.”

An important objective is providing effective intervention programs for
young people who are the most likely targets of gang recruitment and
identified young gang members. Present at today’s meeting were
representatives from local faith-based organizations, Boys and Girls Clubs
and other community groups whose core missions are to provide Florida’s
youth with a safe and productive alternative to gangs.

The law enforcement community actively participated in today’s initiative
to discuss improving data collection and information exchange among state
and federal authorities on gangs and gang members and their activities.
This component will also focus on coordinating law enforcement and
prosecution efforts by setting priorities and targeting the most
problematic and dangerous gangs, gang activities and gang-related
prosecutions all over Florida. Representatives from the Florida Department
of Law Enforcement, sheriffs’ offices, police departments, members of the
Florida Highway Patrol and others were on hand to provide insight and
begin planning how to meet their objectives.

The strategy also emphasizes the importance of working to provide gang
members currently incarcerated with job training and other essential
rehabilitation skills. One of the rehabilitation and re-entry objectives
is to expand programs designed to help incarcerated gang members prepare
for re-entry into society upon completion of their sentences. Re-entry
objectives include counseling and mentoring these former gang members so
they will turn toward becoming productive members of society when
released. The Department of Juvenile Justice, the Department of
Corrections, and other parties involved in this particular aspect of the
strategy were all present today.

More information about the gang reduction strategy and a list of
Coordinating Council members is available online at:
http://www.safeflorida.net/safestreets. The next organizational session
will be held in South Florida next month.

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