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Summit Called Over Rise in Gang Crime : Violence: County supervisors urge city and law enforcement officials to join in a November meeting to address the alarming jump in assaults with weapons on campuses and in affluent communities.


SANTA ANA — Citing a "shocking rise in gang-related crime," Orange County supervisors called on city and law enforcement leaders Friday to join them for a countywide summit to discuss the problems in November.

The move was prompted by alarming increases in gang prosecutions and growing concern about gangs on campuses and in communities throughout the county, officials said.

"Some youth are finding school no longer a neutral zone or a safe place," stated a report to the supervisors by Chief Probation Officer Michael Schumacher and County Administrative Officer Ernie Schneider.

Communities have been slow to recognize the full force of gang activity, especially in wealthy neighborhoods of Orange County, Supervisor Thomas F. Riley said.

"I certainly didn't want to believe it was happening in the 5th District," Riley said of his sprawling and largely affluent county district. "But we saw it moving and moving fast. Right now, the effort against this activity hasn't really crossed lines or come together."

Kathleen Campini, an executive assistant to Board of Supervisors Chairwoman Harriett M. Wieder, said summit participants would attempt to form a countywide strategy to battle the gang problem.

"Right now, there is no network or place to facilitate enforcement efforts," Campini said. "There are wonderful programs out there, but something like this could bring groups together and, perhaps, come up with new ways of doing things."

In just the past five years, according to the report, "the phenomenon of youth street gangs has exploded in Orange County. . . . Violence committed by youthful street gang members has increasingly reached shocking levels."

The district attorney's prosecutions of gang members in 1992 was a particularly "alarming" measure of the problem, the report said. That year, 2,900 cases were filed--more than twice the number in 1989--including 34 people charged with murder and 372 charged with other violent felonies.

Following a "relatively dormant" period during the late 1970s, county officials said, gang activity began escalating by the late 1980s. During that time, the report said, gang members moved into "non-traditional" gang communities.

Officials point to a number of causes for the spread of gangs, from changing demographics to a "general breakdown of community pride and social responsibility" and to the media.

"Whether related to Hispanic, white, Asian or African-American youth, new gang recruits were developed based on definitions appearing in newspapers, movies, some forms of contemporary music and by word of mouth," the county report stated.

Among the most alarming trends, the county report stated, was the common use of guns and other weapons. Last year, county authorities prosecuted 128 gang-related weapons violations.

"For the most part, it is now the norm for gang members to possess and use a firearm to resolve a gang conflict," officials wrote in the report.

At the same time supervisors review plans Tuesday for a summit, they are set to address other law enforcement issues:

* Supervisors are expected to approve a resolution in favor of extending a half-cent sales tax through Dec. 30, 1993, with the proceeds going to police, prosecution, jail and fire services.

The resolution is expected to be easily adopted by the board, but the tax must be approved by voters in a special November election. The tax proceeds are expected to fill a local funding gap created when the state shifted $2.6 million in property tax revenue from local governments to pay for public education costs in California.

If the sales tax is not approved in Orange County, officials have said that at least one of the county's five jail facilities would close, along with two fire stations.

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