Recognizing the need to protect our community from gangs and gang-related crimes, MVPD created a Gang Suppression Team (GST) which operates as a branch within our Youth Services Unit (YSU). The GST is comprised of officers with extensive knowledge of gangs, gained from law enforcement experience, professional training and information exchange with other law enforcement agencies.
“Gang prevention is an important aspect of my job. We need to reach out to our kids before they are recruited by the gangs, which happens at a very young age,” says Officer Beraha of MVPD’s GST. “By getting involved in gang prevention programs, our goal is to be a role model for these kids. If we can achieve that, it is a huge victory and most likely we saved a kid from joining a gang. The goal is simple, we want a police officer, and not a gang member, to be a role model for that kid.”
To that end, GST employs three strategies to reduce gang — suppression, intervention and prevention.
Suppression refers to the police department’s zero-tolerance policy for criminal gangs. Both GST, regular officers and the other Youth Services Unit (YSU) members work to identify local gang members, develop intelligence about the gangs, and arrest those who commit crimes. Thorough investigation of gang cases allows us to charge gang suspects with California’s “gang enhancement” penalty, which can add 10 additional years to a gang member’s sentence.
“The goal is simple, we want a police officer, and not a gang member, to be a role model for that kid.”
Intervention means taking steps to prevent kids from joining gangs. MVPD’s Youth Services Unit, which includes the GST, our School Resource Officers and two counselors, identifies kids who are at risk of joining gangs and tries to recruit them into police programs designed to point kids in a more positive direction.
YSU and GST members also make home visits to families of at-risk kids. These visits provide police an opportunity to learn more about the conditions that encourage kids to join gangs, and a chance to provide referrals to community resources.
Prevention is the third prong of our gang strategy. We sponsor public seminars and go to Neighborhood Watch meetings to promote gang awareness. We help residents and parents identify gang activity and encourage them to report it to the schools and/or the police department.
Officer Beraha has been with the MVPD for five years and is currently assigned to the Gang Suppression Team (GST) of the Youth Services Unit. He participates in various youth prevention programs including the Kick, Lead and Dream Soccer Camp. Originally born and raised in Brazil, Officer Beraha came to the U.S, when he was 18. He developed his knowledge and skills about gangs during his time on patrol, and is also an active member of the SWAT Team.