Around 500 people dedicated to combating gang activity participated in today’s Regional Gang Summit organized by the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments (COG) and co-sponsored by the U.S. Department of Justice-Office of Justice Programs, the Arlington County Police Department, and COX Communications.
The summit was the first to bring together a diverse group including elected officials and community leaders from the District of Columbia, Maryland and Virginia to promote regional collaboration in dealing with the growing gang problem.
“The problem of gangs and gang violence cannot be successfully resolved unless public safety and human services providers work as a team across the region to combat the gang culture and provide alternatives to that dangerous lifestyle,” said Fairfax Supervisor Penelope Gross, who helped plan the summit in her role as Chair of COG’s Public Safety Policy Committee. “And we’re all on that team—teachers, parents, social workers, police officers, and elected officials.”
Participants discussed taking steps toward the development of a regional plan to reduce and eliminate local gangs. On September 30, COG and the U.S. Department of Justice-Office of Justice Programs will immediately follow up the summit with an executive session to launch a region-wide anti-gang effort.
The summit offered participants a variety of work sessions that provided a clear overview of the clinical, legal and social implications of regional gang activity as well as successful examples of anti-gang policies and programs. Speakers emphasized the importance of combating gangs on all fronts with prevention, intervention and suppression programs.
“Gangs are not just one jurisdiction’s problem,” said Arlington Board Member Walter Tejada, who as Chair of COG’s Human Services Policy Committee, also helped plan the event. Mr. Tejada emphasized the need for regional collaboration as well as a focus on prevention programs. “When we think about combating gangs, I hope that we—as a region—think about the effective programs at the community-level that need our support.”
Several area elected officials, both national and local leaders, added their support to today’s regional effort. U.S. Congressmen Jim Moran (VA-8), Frank Wolf (VA-10) and Tom Davis (VA-11), Montgomery County Executive Doug Duncan, Prince George’s County Executive Jack Johnson, D.C. Council Member and COG Board Chair Phil Mendelson spoke during the morning’s opening session. Participants included educators, law enforcement officers, government officials, students, health care and child welfare professionals, and people in the field of juvenile justice.