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Crowd Fills Galaxy For Gang Presentation
The Galaxy Theater was filled with a different type of movie-goer Thursday evening, May 15 as people crowded into theater No. 10 to watch 'Nuestra Familia: The Impact Of Prison Gangs In Our Community,' a 45-minute documentary geared toward educating parents, teachers, and other teens about the destructive power gangs have over the youth of today.

Stanislaus County was one of five communities chosen to host the gang presentation with the documentary.

Following the film, a panel of law enforcement and city officials from around Stanislaus County answered questions moderated by Sgt. Craig Gundlach of the Modesto Police Department and posed by audience members.

The questions presented valid concerns as evidenced by data relayed by law enforcement, that the Central Valley is under the threat of gang infiltration from the neighboring county of Salinas, which has become inundated with gang influence.

"Salinas is just around the corner..." said Virginia Madueno, Riverbank City Council member and key coordinator for the panel event. "This (gang influence) is a crisis, a cancer and we can stop it if we try."

Members of the Youth Action Commission of Stanislaus County shared their experiences with the crowd in the hopes of driving home the reality of what's out there.

Alejandro, a young man who was swept into the gang life at an early age and later expelled from school for fighting, said that the Youth Action Commission saved his life and put him back on track.

"My life has taken a big change since joining the Youth Action Commission," he said. "We need more programs like this for the kids out there who are at risk to join gangs."

Someone in the audience asked what does it cost for prevention and Vicki Bauman, Stanislaus County Office of Education, provided an answer.

"It doesn't cost a dime to reach out to that student who you think might be banging," she said. "Make a difference. Go to that student's home. It's amazing what you can find when you make a home visit."

Another person asked why the district attorney's office couldn't start charging the "hoodlums" as terrorists and Stanislaus County DA Birgit Fladager answered that in the eyes of the law it wasn't so simple as that but often crimes committed by gang bangers were often given gang enhancements, which stiffened whatever sentence they may be receiving.