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Gang Task Force Wraps Up

Members of the Community Dialogue on Gang Activity and Revitalization, which was sponsored by Supervisor Sharon Bulova (D-Braddock), met for the final time on Wednesday, June 9. After six weeks of discussions, the task force pointed to the need for more community activities as a top priority for addressing the gang problem.

A teen center at Culmore Apartments in Annandale was one example that the task force cited as the type of community activities it recommended. The apartment complex has been the site of possible gang-related incidents in the past.

"We run a teen center right at Culmore, and it works really well," said Alicia Wissel, who works at Culmore.

Eve Hall sees a need for similar programs in North Springfield. "I think the after-school programs and summer activities absolutely has to be done," Hall said. "It's essential."

After breaking into sub-groups and narrowing its lists of recommendations down, the task force came up with a list of anti-gang measures that included re-establishing some defunct community association structures; putting the community back in the community school; establishing outside partnerships, outreach and communication about gang activity; and enhancing community policing presence. The outreach and communication could take the form of a gang-reporting Web site, media alerts and brochures to keep people aware of what gang activity is reported.

"The police that were there suggested this could be countywide," said Bulova, who is looking to air these suggestions at the first Board of Supervisors meeting in early July. "I suspect these recommendations will fit right in with the recommendations (Chairman) Gerry Connolly (D-At-large) had in mind."

THIS TASK FORCE typifies Bulova's approach to community issues. She was joined on June 9 by Connolly (D), Supervisor Penny Gross (D-Mason) and school board member Tessie Wilson (Braddock).

"Gang activities, on the face, may look impossible but they're not impossible," Bulova said.

Wilson pointed to a culinary arts kitchen at Annandale High School as a possible training tool for after high school graduation. It would give students training in the restaurant business, so they could get jobs.

The first meeting of the Community Dialogue on Gang Activity and Revitalization took place on Feb. 11. Each of the six meetings focused on a different facet of the problem. Bulova included various speakers throughout the dialogue as well. Although 300 people attended one of meetings, the core group of attendees consisted of about 50 people. Participants had to have a certain attendance record in order to vote on the recommendations at the final meeting.

Fairfax County Police Capt. Jack Hurlock of the West Springfield District Station attended regularly.

"I think we've accomplished a lot because we're bringing the community together. From here, it will be the opportunity to shoot off in a lot of directions," Hurlock said.

Bulova was happy with the final outcome. "I sort of believed we'd come out where we did," Bulova said of the

recommendation list.