One situation Ruiz said they pay particular attention to is when
middle school students are combined into high schools. He said that
combination can lead to fighting over turf.
"One thing we want to watch is what kind of rivalries are starting
in our schools that might flow over into our city," he said.
The unit also takes incidents of graffiti or tagging very
"Tagging may not be considered a priority, but it's the beginning
of what can culminate in violent acts down the road," Ruiz said.
To prevent those violent acts, the gang unit utilizes a
three-prong approach: prevention, intervention and suppression.
The unit works closely with school resource officers to identify
kids who might be at risk of becoming involved with gangs, Officer
Harley Wing said. Officers then try to get those kids involved in
some of the various mentorship programs it works with.
Simply getting more people involved in a young person's life often
can prevent that child from joining a gang, Wing said.
"Most gang members are done by their late 20s, and they don't want
their kids in gangs," he said.
While officers in the gang unit do some patrolling, they also rely
heavily on information from the other patrol officers in the
department. Whenever an incident appears to be gang-related, whether
it be vandalism or an assault, it is passed along to the gang unit.
In addition to the Glendale-based gangs, it sometimes deals with
overflow from Los Angeles gangs.
"Sometimes, the Los Angeles gangs will come in to pick on the
Glendale gangs," Wing said.
Despite its efforts to nip gang activity in the bud, the unit
still must sometimes deal with violent crime, such as during a series
of assaults this summer. When that happens, Wing said Proposition 21,
which provides more serious penalties for even misdemeanor gang
crimes, is an important weapon.
"We're seeing a difference in the way they react to us," he said.
To keep kids from reaching that point, Ruiz said it is important
parents keep a close eye on what their kids are doing and who they
are hanging out with.
"We try to get as much parent involvement as we can," Ruiz said.