SF police, lawmaker offer jobs to help teens exit gangs 

click to enlarge Police Chief Greg Suhr, center, congratulates Officers John Cathey, left and David Sands after the pair won a Heroes & Hearts Award for their work with youths. - COURTESY PHOTO
  • Courtesy photo
  • Police Chief Greg Suhr, center, congratulates Officers John Cathey, left and David Sands after the pair won a Heroes & Hearts Award for their work with youths.

Attention Mission district gangsters who are fed up with the thug life: Supervisor David Campos wants to give you a job.

In the past 18 months, Campos said, he has teamed up with officers on a new program that targets at-risk youths who actually want to leave their gangs. According to the supervisor, “close to 10 young men” who had been contributing to rampant gang activity in the Mission are now employed with The City as gardeners.

Now Campos wants to expand the program to include private-sector employment opportunities.

“We’ve come across kids who want to be chefs, so we’re looking for a restaurant,” he said.

The hope is that a steady paycheck will open up new opportunities, including education.

The idea stemmed from a conversation with a gang task force officer who works on 24th Street, Campos said. Gang crime has long plagued the neighborhood, and the supervisor believes a multifaceted approach is required to address the problem.

“We collectively came up with this idea that, for young people who were involved in a gang but perhaps were looking for a way out, we would offer a way out,” Campos said. “The best way to do that would be to offer them a job.”

Of course, Campos said, the transition is not as simple as having the youths fill out job applications.

“Getting one of these young men to say, ‘Yes, I want to pursue this,’ it usually takes many, many, many conversations,” Campos said. “The conversation can take place at the oddest times.”

It’s remarkable, the supervisor added, how police officers who enforce the law really want to do more for public safety.

“Our officers are out there every day with these individuals,” Mission Police Station Capt. Robert Moser said.

“They’re making dozens of contacts every day. They sometimes result in arrest, and sometimes they don’t. Sometimes it’s just to follow up on people, see how they’re doing.”

And if they take the bait, Campos said, that’s one less person committing crimes on the streets.

“It’s really about making neighborhoods safer one person at a time,” he said.

On Thursday, two officers involved in the program, John Cathey and David Sands, received a Heroes & Hearts Award from San Francisco General Hospital.

maldax@sfexaminer.com

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Thursday, Nov 20, 2014

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