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5 Agencies Unite to Target Gang Violence

Five agencies in Ventura County have banded together to reduce gang membership and juvenile violence on school campuses, but the group needs $1.5 million to get started, officials said Thursday.

The Gang Violence Suppression program has representatives from the Ventura Police Department, its affiliated Police Activities League, the Ventura County Probation Agency, Ventura Unified School District and the county district attorney’s office, Police Sgt. Ken Corney said.

Program representatives are writing a funding request to send to the Office of Criminal Justice and Planning, a state agency offering three-year grants for efforts to stem gang violence. The grants require a 10% to 30% match in funds from local agencies, but so far no money has been allocated.

If the funding request is approved, the state’s first installment would be $450,000, Corney said. The funding would be divided among the agencies, with the largest portion going to the Police Department to finance additional staffing for its gang unit, Corney said.

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“I know from talking with people, [the grant process] is very competitive,” Corney said. The local agencies have not developed a contingency plan in case the state does not approve the grant.

A decision by the state office on who will receive the funding is expected by June, Corney said.

“We are seeing an increase in gang membership with juveniles between 13 and 15 years old,” Corney said.

The program also follows a rash of gang violence on the county’s school campuses since February, including a drive-by shooting and two stabbings.

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