Crucial Seminar on Gangs To Be Held
By Dan Hust
ROCK HILL February 20, 2007 The Lodge at Rock Hill will host a free seminar next month which local law enforcement officials say may be the most important meeting in years.
“We know for a fact that we have gangs here,” remarked Sgt. Luis Alvarez, a longtime officer with the Sullivan County Sheriff’s Department. “And these gangs are a business.”
They’re in business, he said, mainly for drugs, but they bring with them violence, burglaries and prostitution.
Places like Liberty, South Fallsburg and Monticello already have them. Alvarez and fellow officers have seen the graffiti, the tattoos, and the literature.
So have Sullivan County’s kids.
Especially those who come from broken, violent or uncaring families.
“Gangs give them purpose and meaning,” said Alvarez.
The lure is so great that gangs once only known in America’s inner cities have expanded far into suburbia and are now slithering into smaller towns and villages.
That’s got Sullivan County’s law enforcement community concerned, and agencies like the Monticello Police Department have actively taken steps to increase patrols and education.
Awareness is key, say gang experts, and so is prevention reaching young people before the gangs do.
So all day on Tuesday, March 6 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. youth workers, police officers, schoolteachers, educational administrators, parents and social agencies are urged to come to the Lodge at Rock Hill to learn what can be done to halt gangs’ rural advancement.
Retired Rockland County Sheriff’s Office Captain Anthony Farina, retired NYS Office of Children and Family Services leader Joe Marano and State of New York Juvenile Officers Association representative Bill Aiello will present “Gang Awareness 101” in an afternoon and morning session, bookended by breakfast, lunch and closing remarks.
The seminar will focus on identifying gangs and their symbols, understanding everything from white supremacy to gangster rap, and learning how to turn kids away from the deadly temptations of criminal gangs.
The committee that formed this seminar is a who’s who of concerned local agencies all of which are working on grant funding to continue the fight: the United Way of Sullivan County, Sullivan County BOCES, Sullivan County Probation, Sullivan County Chamber of Commerce, EPIC Parent Center, Sullivan County Office for the Aging, Focus Media, and every police department in the county, including the State Police.
Pre-registration is required no later than February 28 and can be obtained by contacting Robin LaFountain at the EPIC Parent Center inside the Robert J. Kaiser Middle School on Breakey Avenue in Monticello. She can be reached via phone at 796-3058, ext. 20909, via fax at 796-3099, or via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The seminar is made possible in part by funding from the New York State Office of Children and Family Services’ Office of Youth Development, and Alvarez (who serves on the committee) hopes it makes a difference.
Indeed, he said, it must because there are many young Sullivan County lives at stake.
“Once you join a gang,” he explained gravely, “you can never get out of it.”