Who can stop gangs here from festering out of control?
The City Council is expected to appoint Gang Task Force members Monday from law enforcement, schools, recreation programs and social service agencies, along with these four city residents:
* David Alo, a patio-cover maker who says he lived the gang life for 12 years with the Long Beach Sons of Samoa 32nd Street Crips before he moved out to Simi Valley and went straight three years ago.
* John James FitzSimons, a Los Angeles Police Department narcotics officer who combats gangs on the streets of L.A.
* Sharon L. Lambertson, a secretary/bookkeeper for her own painting company who also serves as the safety chairman of the Simi Valley PTA Council.
* Barbara M. Zaslow, a quality-assurance manager for a Chatsworth company and interpreter for the deaf.
City Council members Paul Miller and Barbara Williamson plucked the four citizen-members from a pool of 46 Simi Valley residents, many of whom said they wanted to stop gangs from turning their bucolic city into a suburban version of the gang battlegrounds just over the hill in the San Fernando Valley.
"They were all absolutely wonderful," Williamson said. "And we didn't let them off the hook, actually."
She and Miller quickly drafted the unchosen applicants to help revitalize the city's Neighborhood Watch program as a further reinforcement against gangs and crime.
"Throughout the city, we could improve the Neighborhood Watch program," said Miller, the city's former police chief. "Crime is not going to go away. And I think that whatever the citizens are willing to do, we certainly should do."
Choosing the four citizen task force members was tough, he said. Interviews--barely 10 minutes apiece--for all 46 applicants were squeezed into a single day.
"I was really impressed with all of them as a group," Miller said. "All of these people are interested. They care about their community. And they all have something to contribute."
FitzSimons, who moved his family to Simi Valley recently after renting a home here in 1992 and 1993, wrote in his application essay, "I notice the recent influx of street gangs since I last lived here . . . I have worked in various gang details throughout Los Angeles and have been very successful at solving gang crimes. I now have a stake in this community and care very much about this city's future."
David Alo said Friday in an interview that he wants to stop the little gang wannabes of Simi Valley from falling under the sway of a new influx of hardened gang members moving into the city from the San Fernando Valley.
"I believe we could put a handle on this if we all stick together and watch each other's backs," said Alo.
"A lot of these kids, they just need somebody they can talk to and open up to, somebody that's been there," added Alo, who said he was shot, imprisoned and addicted to drugs before he left the gang life.
"And I believe I am the one. I've got a story that will make them think twice about it, because I've been there and done that. . . . And I'm a proven fact that it can be changed."
Other task force members to be confirmed by council vote Monday night are Simi Valley Police Chief Randy Adams, Chief Deputy Dist. Atty. Ron Janes, Deputy Chief Probation Officer Cal Remington and Chief Sheriff's Deputy Bob Brooks.
The council also is expected to name James Meredith, chairman of the Simi Valley Recreation and Park District, Simi Valley Boys & Girls Club President Linda White, local minister Todd Whetsel, Chamber of Commerce member Jacqueline Richardson, Simi Valley Youth Council member Brian Rudiger and a board member from the Simi Valley Unified School District to be chosen Monday.