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"Net Guns", high-tech tools lauded by Calif. anti-gang activists

Monterey Herald

MONTEREY, Calif. — The 2007 Monterey County grand jury, in a final report released Friday, said it likes electronic voting machines and called upon all county residents to resist "the apathy that tacitly supports" widespread gang activity.

The grand jury also called for better law enforcement computer systems, a county mobile emergency command vehicle and improved services for foster children reaching adulthood.

The outgoing grand jury devoted detailed sections of its final 67-page report to the subjects of gangs and transitional programs for foster youths.

And it offered effusive compliments for the Greenfield Police Department's use of non-lethal "Net Guns" and other high-tech tools and community-minded tactics to keep the peace.

"We've put a lot of time and effort into getting the best equipment and training possible," said Greenfield Police Chief Joe Grebmeier.

In seven pages devoted to gang suppression, intervention and prevention, the grand jury said gang violence "not only affects gang members, it also affects the entire community."

The report goes into detail on symbols used by members of Norteno and Sureno gangs and efforts by the Monterey County Joint Gang Task Force to combat an estimated 5,000 gang members in the county.

The grand jury said some families have followed the gang lifestyle for "three or four generations," and gangs use intimidation to prevent people from working with the police. "The 'don't' snitch' culture that prevails allows gangs and gang violence to flourish," the report said.

The grand jury recommended broad community efforts to create alternatives to gangs, including school anti-violence programs, after-school activities, family and parental counseling, and park and youth programs.

The report also calls for better Internet technology and global positioning systems for vehicles used by the gang task force.

The need for equipment and training on the equipment is a subject the 2007 grand jury touched in another section dealing with law enforcement agencies.

The report said the county Adult Probation Department has 30 Taser stun guns, but the devices aren't used because of the lack of training. Meanwhile, the grand jury said some sheriff's deputies working in the county jail now purchase Taser devices with their own money. The county should provide the jail deputies with the devices, the report said.

"Some deputies have them," said Sheriff Mike Kanalakis on Friday. "But not as many as we'd like."

"As funding becomes available we'll try to purchase Tasers for all departments."

The 2007 grand jury started with 19 members and several alternate members, but "a lot of attrition" reduced its ranks to only 11 members by the end of its term, Superior Court Judge Adrienne Grover said.

Grover thanked outgoing members and swore in the 2008 grand jury Friday afternoon in a ceremony in the Board of Supervisors chambers in Salinas.

The 67-page report is divided into six broad areas and touches on 18 specific areas, ranging from residency requirements for elected officials to findings about the county's two state prisons in Soledad.

Conspicuously absent is any mention of the county's land-use planning process, which historically has been a favorite target of grand juries.

But the 2007 grand jury, like many before it, called for the county to build a new juvenile hall. It said the Board of Supervisors should condemn the current Salinas juvenile hall that remains in use "despite major problems with the wiring and maintenance of the fire alarm and suppression system."

Staff writer Clarissa Aljentera contributed to this report.

Copyright 2007 Monterey County Herald

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