The drug deals in the parks, the street violence, the follow-up retaliations and the ever-present graffiti on walls, fences and overpasses throughout East County are the outward signs that street gangs are spreading their lifestyle to the suburbs.
Usually associated with big, urban areas, street gangs are beginning to make their presence into Eastern Contra Costa County.
A Gang Summit – “Step Away From the Fast Life” – will be held Saturday, Oct. 9 at 4 p.m. at Deer Valley High School, 4700 Lone Tree Way in Antioch. “Our gang problems are not as severe compared to other parts of the county,” said Supervisor Federal Glover. “But that is the point of this gang summit. We don’t want our area to become that bad.”
Police agencies believe there is a link between East County and the urban East Bay. They say the gangs from Richmond and Oakland see East County as fertile recruiting grounds.
The theme “Step Away From the Fast Life” was suggested by local high school students to emphasize that there are positive choices available to East County youth rather than falling victim to the lure of gangs.
The way the gang lifestyle is portrayed in the media presents a glamorous picture of a close-knit family of other gang members. One of the highlights of the gang summit will be a panel of former gang members, some of whom have spent decades behind bars, who will give the audience a hardboiled peek at the harsh realities of gang life.
The summit will offer a series of workshops to let youth know what alternatives exist locally that could help address the problems of hopelessness, substance abuse, alienation and failing family relationships that feed the quest for belonging, self-worth and identity.
The free, daylong event on Oct. 9 is sponsored by the Glover and the East County Gang Task Force in partnership with a host of local community-based organizations, school districts and law enforcement agencies.
This is the second gang summit sponsored by the Gang Task Force. The first gathering in 2007 was mainly educational, raising awareness of the growing problem of gangs.
“We need to stop the spread of gang culture now, before it becomes so large a problem we won’t be able to handle it,” said Glover, whose District 5 encompasses the communities of Antioch, Pittsburg, Oakley, Bay Point and Bethel Island.
For more information or to register for the Gang Summit, call 925-427-8138.