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Santa Rosa gang-prevention event returns, minus gun display


Santa Rosa kicks off its annual Gang Prevention Awareness Week Saturday with one key change from prior years: police officers will not let children handle high-powered weapons.

Photos of children handling assault-style weapons at a SWAT display last year set off a firestorm of criticism.

The police department and Mayor Ernesto Olivares, a retired police lieutenant, defended the display as a safe and effective way of “demystify” the roles of SWAT officers and to build bridges between them and residents of gang-plagued neighborhoods. The guns in question were unloaded, locked and handled in the presence of a SWAT team officer.

But others decried the activity as inappropriate for young children, likely to foster a dangerous fascination with guns and insensitive to the South Park neighborhood. Critics at a City Council meeting wore “Guns are not toys” buttons.

The Santa Rosa City Council complained that publicity of the controversy overshadowed the good work of the evet. Several members suggested the department rethink its SWAT display at the South Park Summer Day & Night Festival.

That’s exactly what happened. The SWAT team’s display will not include weapons, Capt. Hank Schreeder said.

“We want to be part of the event, and if being a part of it means we have to make some changes, we’re perfectly OK with that,” Schreeder said.

A SWAT van and mobile command center will be there, and children will be able to don such gear as helmets and protective shields, he said.

City Manager Kathy Millison said the change made sense given last year’s reaction.

“We heard from some members of the community that there were concerns that maybe that wasn’t the best place to do it,” Millison said.

There was no mention of the change at the City Council meeting Tuesday when the council presented a proclamation to Matt Martin, executive director of Social Advocates for Youth and a member of the Mayor’s Gang Prevention Task Force.

“It takes a community to see dreams. It takes a community to strengthen families. And it takes a community to foster futures,” Martin said. Gangs are “a community-wide issue that requires a community-wide response,” he said.

The week begins Saturday with a movie in Jacobs Park on West Ninth Street from 6 p.m. to 11 p.m. The feature, the animated film Despicable Me, is about a criminal mastermind who learns the error of his ways.

On Sunday, a boxing demonstration put on by the Double Punches Boxing Club takes place from 12:30 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. at Santa Rosa Plaza. The program strives to give direction to at-risk youth in the community.

On Tuesday, police will conduct gang prevention training for the public at Finley Community Center. The event will educate about 120 business people, parents and others about gang awareness and trends in Sonoma County gang activity. It is put on by the Santa Rosa Police Department’s gang team. Pre-registration is required for the day-long event.

Then on Thursday, the city hosts a two-day conference of the California Cities Grant Prevention Network, at which representatives of the 13 cities in the network will discuss best practices in combating gang violence.

The annual event ends Saturday, Aug. 11, with the South Park Summer Day & Night Festival in Martin Luther King Park on Temple Avenue. It takes place from 2 p.m. to 11:30 p.m. and includes games and information booths of a variety of local service agencies.

(You can reach Staff Writer Kevin McCallum at 521-5207 or kevin.mccallum@pressdemocrat.com.)

13 Responses to “Santa Rosa gang-prevention event returns, minus gun display”

  1. Chuck G says:

    There are too many(some wanna be)gangsters on the street, some as young as 10 yrs old acting on behalf of their older brothers, cousins,friends, whatever.

    Don’t introduce them to more guns as they have surely already seen and held them firsthand transporting them across town for money, or for their own personal protection.

    Bring them to county jail for a lockup, if they like it you know that you will probably see them again in the future, and the influence they are receiving from whomever will not change their minds.

    There is not enough law enforcement on the streets, not to mention the freeways but I won’t get into that one at this time

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  2. Robert says:

    In my life experience, I’ve always felt uncomfortable witnessing grown men worship techno gadgets as a crutch to help them feel more positive about themselves.

    Almost without exception, those who worship designer clothing, worship techno gadgets, worship Ebooks , worship hybrid vehicles, are the very same ones who sip vermouth, drive a Prius (but unnecessary with a battery replacement carbon footprint larger than a one ton diesel truck) and own the loudest leaf blowers around…..
    … all to try and improve their own self image and hide an inadequate education.
    Low self esteem and physical inadequacies among those types is always the common denominator.
    The false indignation is sickening.
    Their denial of that false indignation is worse.
    The fact that many are trust fund babys and/or government managers is scary.
    None of it has anything to do with “thinking they are elite” …. its that type of persona that disgusts the vast majority of the general public. Since some are so intolerant.
    The idea that someone of that persona has stereotyped visions and paranoia of society, is not scary at all. A wee bit pathetic, but free speech is free and used as a crutch all the time. Don’t be thin-skinned. God bless America.

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  3. Snarky says:

    In my life experience, I’ve always felt uncomfortable witnessing grown men worship weapons as a crutch to help them feel more positive about themselves.

    Almost without exception, those who worship camo clothing, worship military assault rifles, worship armored vehicles, are the very same ones who guzzle beer, drive huge (but unnecessary pick up trucks) and own the loudest boat motors around…..

    … all to try and improve their own self image.

    Low self esteem among those types is always the common denominator.

    The false bravado is sickening.

    Their denial of that false bravado is worse.

    The fact that many are employed as “sworn” law enforcement officers is scary.

    None of it has anything to do with “authority” …. its that type of persona that disgusts the vast majority of the general public.

    The idea that someone of that persona has been given such dangerous power over a free people is just downright scary.

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  4. DRV says:

    Law enforcement are trained in gang prevention, so they’d know whether the display is a safe way to introduce kids to weapons.

    The parents of the kids in the pictures haven’t spoken out against the display. Instead, strangers who don’t want police making what they consider parenting decisions are making parenting decisions for the kids in the pictures. If you have a problem with police safely demonstrating their weapons, maybe you shouldn’t let your kids wander around the event without supervision.

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  5. Snarky says:

    David Subblebine:

    A little thin skinned, today, are you not?


    He actually admitted and stated, “I worked with police officers every day for 31 years …”

    Yep. That says it all.

    By the way, the comment posted that the man in the controversial photo was a former “Navy SEAL” is comical. SO WHAT?

    Get it through your governmental brain that parents have the final say on who teaches their kids, when, and on what subject.

    Got it, “David” ?????

    Keep your violent teaching ways away from our kids.

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  6. Jim says:

    Just a couple comments about the whole kids and guns “debate” or “firestorm”…

    First off, kids know more about guns then people think. All the XBox shooter games have a multitude of guns with stats about firing rates, kill ranges, magazine capacity, etc and very real images of the result of shooting someone with them. I bet just about everyone who is making a stink about the photo, the event, etc has kids who play these games either at home or at a friend’s house. I wouldn’t be surprised if these same parents buy the games for their kids.

    Secondly, the officer in the “controversial” picture with the kid holding the gun is a former Navy Seal. If anyone can talk to a kid about how to properly handle a weapon it is a Seal.

    It is unfortunate that people are so quick to create a controversy when they have NO information. This is one of the reasons nothing gets done in Washington…quick reaction without facts merely because of some ingrained belief about some topic. Well, that and the elected officials in Washington are liars and thieves.

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  7. David Stubblebine says:

    It appears Snarky has some issues with authority – or at least with police. I question all of his/her alleged facts. He/She says: “Many cops fail to understand that line and cross routinely cross it as if their badge protects them [sic].” Mostly I question the use of the word “routinely” in this sentence. Are there cases where cops cross the line with a sense of impunity? – Yes, sadly, there are. Are there “many” or are they “routine”? – I know they are not.

    I challenge Snarky to support his/her statements with facts. And a few isolated cases won’t work; support the words “many” and “routine” or it’s no good.

    I realize “many” is a relative term in this context since one case is already too many, but Snarky’s implication is that there are lots and lots, enough to taint the entire pool, and that is just not true.

    I worked with police officers every day for 31 years and my experience of their character is TOTALLY different from Snarky’s. What is Snarky’s experience with police to say these things with such authority?

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  8. Snarky says:

    Rick is right.

    “KIDS love guns.”

    Notice Rick loves guns?

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  9. DRV says:

    Thanks for nothing, Atilla Nagy, who threw a fit over this. And thanks for nothing, Curtis Bird, and Julie Combs, who would prefer kids learn about guns on the streets rather than from trained officers.

    Vote for anyone but Julie Combs for Santa Rosa City Council.

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  10. Grey Whitmore says:

    Well, deportations great but what are you going to do with the 50 to 75 percent of gang members who are not illegal?

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  11. Rick says:

    Too bad about the guns. There are right, kids ARE fascinated with guns. There is a curiosity there. How would you like your children to explore that curiosity? With trained adults teaching them, or in some backyard or back bedroom when they find a neighbors or relatives guns? Do your neighbors own guns? Do you think they would tell you honestly in this day and age? How are they stored? Locked in a gun safe, or laying under the bed? Guns and ignorance equal tragedy.

    Just this morning I ran a shoot at formal range with 22 kids and their parents. Before shooting, we discussed safety, safe handling and dangerous activities. The one thing I stressed was that when there is a gun accident, most of the time it is the person standing next to the unsafe person who gets hurt or worse. We showed them safe gun handling so they would know UNSAFE gun handling and know it was time to leave and tell someone.

    I have run these programs for over 10 years and hundreds of kids have participated. This morning it was just about 6,000 rounds in 3 hours. There were single shot tiny Cricket rifles for the smaller shooter, Ruger semi autos, colt AR-15 style rifles, competition Olympic style rifles, semi-auto handguns and revolvers in .357, .45, .38 and .22. These 22 kids got first rate instruction, coaching and mentoring in the proper use of firearms. They had a great time and learned a lot. Several parents approached me for advice and for private instruction in home defense, understanding the when seconds count, the police are only minutes away, and the deputies are a lot further away.

    I am sorry the wrong attitude of fear and ignorance prevailed. It was a prime opportunity to bring out a laser range, lots of guns to handle and get instruction on and pass out lots of educational material to kids and parents to help keep them safe. Ignorance and fear of guns only sets people up for tragedy.

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  12. Snarky says:

    Curious is partly correct.

    Deport the criminal illegals who prey upon everyone around them.

    But whatever he means by “police using both hands…” is wrong.

    Cops are paid to apprehend suspects and nothing more.

    They are not paid to be thugs and when police do engage in being thugs because they cannot control themselves, they become a criminal themselves and need to be jailed.

    Many cops fail to understand that line and cross routinely cross it as if their badge protects them. Many cops in prison now understand that line.

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  13. Curious says:

    The best way to improve gang violence awareness is for the police to use both hands when they apply the handcuffs to the gang members as they arrest them.

    Arrest, incarcerate, convict and deport. That is the only effective way to stop gang violence. Steet fairs do nothing and waste time and public monies.

    The only thing the gang street fairs do is make the city council feel like they have answered the gang problem. Ha, Ha.

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