Youth gun violence may not affect you on a daily basis. Shootings do happen in San Mateo County, but likely not in your neighborhood.
That’s because 80 percent of youth gun violence occurs in just four cities in San Mateo County—Daly City, South San Francisco, Redwood City and East Palo Alto, San Mateo County Health Officer Dr. Scott Morrow told county officials at a Youth Gun Violence Forum in San Mateo on Thursday.
The forum, sponsored by Supervisor Rose Jacobs-Gibson and the Association of Bay Area Governments, highlighted the ways youth gun violence affects San Mateo County and offered suggestions for ways to mitigate the problem.
“It’s unlikely that most of the people in San Mateo County are directly affected by gun violence,” Morrow said.
But, he added, there are a few areas where “gun violence completely dictates their lives.”
And the price of youth gun violence is adding up.
Between 2005 and 2009, youth gun violence cost society about $234 million in San Mateo County. And local governments spend $57,000 to $856,000 per firearm crime, Morrow said.
It’s no secret that many youth gun violence instances are gang-related. Gangs target vulnerable youth, according to a report released at the forum, and when a child comes from an unstable home or a family of gang members, it’s easy to fall into the same lifestyle.
San Mateo County Sheriff’s Sgt. Leo Capovilla of the Gang Intelligence Unit said his team devotes 22 weeks out of the year specifically to targeting gangs in the county.
The 2,740 validated gang members in San Mateo County comprise 71 groups that claim certain areas, which are broken down by various gangs, he said. The two most notorious in the county, the Norteños and Sureños, comprise more than half of the gang members.
Most of the youth gang members Capovilla said the county deals with have been influenced by music, television and video games. He said they also have problems with truancy, and experience a lack of family involvement.
“A lot of the kids we deal with are not going to school, or not participating,” Capovilla said.
But, he added, San Mateo County offers a wide variety of programs both in schools and through community-based organizations to help keep youth away from violence and gangs.
San Mateo Police Deputy Chief Mike Callagy said gang violence is a problem in San Mateo, but the Police Department’s involvement with the gang task force, as well as neighborhood response teams, help try to keep the violence under control.
“It’s a constant battle,” Callagy said of dealing with gangs in San Mateo. “One gang member can cause so much violence.”
Gang members often don’t know a world outside their gang, he said.
“Many of these people don’t realize that there’s life beyond gangs,” Callagy said. “They don’t expect to live past 20.”
Gang-related crimes in San Mateo range from drug sales to robberies to major assaults, including shootings and stabbings, he said.
To view the full report, click on the attached PDF.