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Paramount Looks at Ways to Halt Increase in Gang Assaults, Killings

March 26, 1989|LEE HARRIS | Times Staff Writer

PARAMOUNT — Alarmed by an increase in gang assaults and killings, the City Council is reviewing several proposals, including adding more sheriff's deputies to a gang detail, expanding an anti-gang program in the schools, and counseling families of suspected gang members.

The entire project would cost more than $1 million and require an increase in taxes, City Manager Bill Holt said. The proposals were drawn up by the city staff and submitted to the council last week. The council is expected to discuss the proposals further at its next meeting April 4.

'Going to Make an Effort'

"We have got to try something. We're going to make an effort," Mayor Charles R. Weldon said.

Weldon said he was "personally and emotionally" affected by the lastest gang killings in which two teen-age boys died in a drive-by shooting Feb. 27.

Weldon said he knew the family of one of the boys, John Adrian Borrego, 16, and had coached one of his older brothers in Little League baseball several years ago. "I was moved. This was not right. It should not happen," Weldon said.

Borrego and Saul Martinez, 14, were killed and three other youths wounded. The shooting occurred in the 13900 block of Downey Avenue, a few doors from Borrego's home. A group of youths were talking when shots were fired from a small red sports car, sheriff's deputies said.

Gang-related killings and assaults have risen in the past couple of years throughout the county, including Paramount, according to statistics from the Sheriff's Department.

The Downey Avenue killing was the fifth gang-related murder in Paramount since June, 1988. There were three such slayings in fiscal 1987-88 ending June 30, and one in 1986-87. Gang-related assaults have shown a steady increase, from 15 in 1986-87 to 27 in 1987-88, to 57 since last June.

The staff submitted more than 30 anti-gang measures in response to a council request after the February drive-by shooting, Weldon said.

3,000 Have Been Taught

These included expanding an anti-gang program in the public schools to all grades from kindergarten through 12th grade. The existing program is limited to fifth, sixth and seventh grades of the Paramount Unified School District. The program, called Alternative to Gang Membership Program, has been a part of the regular curriculum since 1982.

Patrick West, a deputy city manager, said more than 3,000 students have gone through the program, which covers the problems and dangers of belonging to a gang. The program expansion would cost more than $122,000 to hire additional personnel the first year.

Another program calls for expanding the special two-member gang detail to four deputies, which would cost nearly $200,000.

Under another proposal, a total of $75,000 would be earmarked for hiring counselors to work with gang members and their families. "We know that some gang members have parents and grandparents who were in gangs. This program would try and break this pattern," Councilman Manuel E. Gullien said.

The staff also suggested that prison visits be scheduled for children "to be scared straight" by criminals. "We would get the permission of their parents before locking them up with criminals who would talk to them about going straight," City Manager Holt said.

Future Tax Increase

The city has about $200,000 in its budget that could be used to expand the anti-gang program in schools or establish the counseling program for families of gang members, Holt said. But taxes would have to be increased to pay for these and other programs in future years, he told the council.

The council could consider increasing business license fees; levying a refinery tax on Paramount Petroleum, the city's only refinery; charging an admissions tax at the Paramount Swap Meet, and increasing dog license fees.

"We need time to think about these proposals. We need to go to the public and see if people are willing to fund them," Weldon said.

The council is expected to get the public's reaction at the April meeting, Weldon said.

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