Stanislaus County Sheriff’s Detective Dalton Gonzalez hosted a special presentation at the Teen Center in Riverbank recently; the Gang Awareness meeting was geared towards parents in the community.
There were about 10 people in attendance at the Feb. 1 session that received information on understanding gangs, why kids join gangs, and what signs or symbols to look for to recognize if their child is a part of one as well as options to prevent it.
“The presentation was specifically targeted at parents,” said Gonzalez. “So they can identify changes with their own children specifically in their teenage years. That is when the gang lifestyle and promotion is going to become more appealing to them.”
Gonzalez will be hosting this presentation throughout the county and in the future he would like to do a presentation specifically for teenagers. He has worked for the Sheriff’s Office for the past six years and is currently a Detective in the Crimes Against Persons Unit where they investigate homicides and violent crimes against people.
He said, “Teenagers are on that fine line between staying on the right track and then choosing potentially this gang lifestyle.”
During the presentation Gonzalez explained that it starts at home and is about parents focusing on their teenagers. Some of the key things that he noted for parents to be aware of if their child is influenced by the gang lifestyle are to be aware of their teenagers clothing including style, sport specific gear and color. Parents should also be aware if they are doing gang signs, drawings, tagging, on pieces of paper or on their desks at school and any disciplinary issues at school they may be having like suspension. Another sign is attitude changes and lack of respect for authority.
“Specifically in Riverbank I see a very small (gang) influence,” stated Gonzalez. “However, even if there is no influence it is important for our community to recognize when gang activity starts at even its earliest stages because that is going to be the cancer, that seed, that poison to go ahead and spread to reach out to our children. That is when it starts becoming an issue. The longer these generational gang members stay in our communities the worse it becomes in these communities as we know we have seen that communities lose their property values. Property values go down and crime increases.”
Although many schools no longer have school resource officers, the City of Riverbank has a Community Resource Deputy. Gonzalez advises parents that may be concerned about their children being involved with gangs to contact the schools and the counselors as well as reaching out to the Community Resource Deputy to stop or avoid the path into a gang lifestyle.