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Gangs Discussed In Meeting
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Local merchants filled the room at Medlen’s House of Beef to hear representatives of the Oakdale Police Department give a presentation about gangs in the area, including what the merchants can do to help the blight created by the undesirable bands of street criminals.
Merchants were presented with information about the history of Oakdale gangs, trends, graffiti, and the names of the most prevalent gangs operating in the city.
“We’re reaching out to businesses so that when they see it (gang activity), not to dismiss it,” said Oakdale Police Detective Brian Shimmel, who was part of the presentation. “We want them to bring it to our attention.”
According to Shimmel, gangs are not only affecting large cities, but also rural towns across the nation. He said that a gang injunction instituted in south Modesto is pushing more gang activity into the city of Oakdale.
A video presentation included various vandalism seen around the city and also explained the difference between “tagging” and “gang graffiti.” When viewing slides of the markings, many of the merchants recognized the graffiti.
“Even though the tagging can be a nuisance,” said Shimmel, “the gang graffiti has more severe ramifications such as violence and marking territory.”
Shimmel pointed out to the red and blue dress and markings that identify the gang’s region including clothing with old English lettering and sports caps that signify gang membership.
Oakdale Mayor Pat Paul also observed the presentation and said she saw a larger attendance than prior merchants meetings.
“The various merchants were very engaged in questions,” Paul said. “There were many merchants there I hadn’t seen in a while.”
Paul said after the meeting she’s seen a dramatic increase in Oakdale’s gang activity and attributes it partially to the drop in police staffing, including the eight officer difference from just three years ago.
“It was very enlightening,” Paul said of the presentation. “A store owner who works late at night has already talked with me about something more needing to be done.”
Chamber of Commerce CEO Mary Guardiola felt the presentation was well received at the meeting and gave education that the merchants not normally would obtain in other areas of a business meeting.
“If we understand what is needed by the police, we can help prevent gang incidents,” Guardiola said.
Kelly Hernandez of the downtown business Kelly’s Treasure Hunt said she received information on what to look for regarding gang activity in the area and was taken back at the number of gangs in the city.
“This was done very well,” Hernandez said. “We should have more of these.”
A few doors over on Third Avenue, Gwen Schmitt of The Empty Nest said she appreciated that the presentation was specific to Oakdale and made her better educated as a downtown merchant.
“I learned I need to make a report of the graffiti so it can be documented and tracked,” Schmitt said. “It’s great that there’s community volunteers that will come out and paint over it, but I’m not surprised, that’s what we do in Oakdale as a community.”