Task force discusses solutions to gangs

Community activism and prevention were some of the solutions offered at an anti-gang task force meeting Wednesday night.

“If the community doesn’t get truly involved … I can tell you it’s only going to get a little worse,” said DeKalb Police Chief Donald Berke.

Berke told local residents that gang members are in the community every day of the week. However, the problem has not yet escalated in DeKalb. According to Berke, there were not any lives lost last year due to homicide.

He urged them to take preventive measures to curb the growth of gangs and not to wait until there was “blood on the streets.”

NIU alumni Ed Balli, co-chair of the DeKalb Task Force Against Gangs, suggested education as a preventive measure. “We need to educate the community about what the issues are,” he said.

Others said that knowing your neighbors was important. “Take an initiative to know your neighbors,” said Judy King, task force co-chair.

Neighborhood programs varied from neighborhood watch programs to neighborhood playgrounds. Dave Emanuelson, DeKalb Park District director, suggested building neighborhood playgrounds in the “at-risk areas” with adults from the neighborhood staffing such programs.

“This would be a way in for these kids,” he said. He added that the playgrounds would provide an alternative to gangs. “It’s really an old application to a new problem,” he said.

One resident wanted to take more aggressive steps to prevent gangs in DeKalb. DeKalb resident Jim Weaver asked the task force to identify exactly where at-risk youths lived. “Put pins in (on a map) for kids that are on probation,” Weaver said.

Nelson Perez, an NIU Student Association senator, told residents to take advantage of one of their biggest resources—NIU. He asked residents to promote cultural awareness to “make them proud of what they are.”