Also serving the communities of De Luz, Rainbow, Camp Pendleton, Pala and Pauma

Speaker says Fallbrook has 'gang presence, not gang problem'

The recent gang activity in Fallbrook is evidence of a “gang presence,” but not a gang problem, according to a man viewed as a gang expert who discussed community strategies with Fallbrook residents on March 30, and solutions to deter gang violence

Rudi Rudisell, a Fallbrook local and leader of Sheepdog Ministries, spends his time helping educate San Diego County communities, law enforcement and school officials. Although he is now a private citizen, Rudisell has a 16-year background in law enforcement specializing in gang-related crime. At a meeting hosted by the Fallbrook Citizens’ Crime Prevention Committee at the Zion Lutheran Church’s social hall, Rudisell discussed how to identify a gang, the history of Hispanic gangs, how to report crimes committed by gangs, and how laws deal with gang crimes.

“Gangs are constantly changing, and [law enforcement] is playing catch up,” said Rudisell, who said there are 33 various types of charges that can be attributed to gang activity, including computer fraud and identity theft. When an individual is charged with any of these crimes, the penalty is compounded if the individual is a documented gang member.

“These added enhancements make even the smallest crimes an automatic felony,” said Rudisell. “Juveniles who are known gang members are tried as adults.”

In addition, Rudisell recommended what the Fallbrook community’s response be to gangs, and how to prevent gang recruiting.

“The gang problem is not solved by incarceration; it is not solved by ‘hug-a-thug;’ and not with ‘catch and release,’” said Rudisell. “Gangs will never be fully eliminated, but they can be diminished.”

According to Rudisell, there is only one “homegrown” gang in Fallbrook, with several gang “influences” from other communities because of Fallbrook’s close proximity to Camp Pendleton.

“We do not have a gang problem; we have a “gang presence.” Anything that affects our quality of life is a problem,” said Rudisell. “I would not live in Fallbrook if we had a gang problem. However, if we ignore the gang presence, it will become an infestation.”

Rudisell presented three types of methods used to deal with gangs: gang suppression (law enforcement), intervention, and prevention (community outreach).

“The average age of youth becoming involved with gangs is 13,” said Rudisell. “If you know your kid is involved with gangs, don’t allow it. If a crime occurs, report it. Otherwise, law enforcement is not aware of what is going on.”

Rudisell said because a large percentage of gang members in Fallbrook come from Spanish-speaking homes, one of the most difficult problems for some families in reporting crime is the fear of being arrested for being in the country illegally.

“Some parents are afraid to call the cops on their kids because their children told them they will call immigration services on them,” explained Rudisell. “We need to get the word out to the Hispanic community that we are trying to stop gang activity.”

Rudisell said the Fallbrook Sheriff’s Substation works closely with the North County Gang Task Force and if a severe gang crime problem erupted, the task force would come to the aid of the community.

“You would have law enforcement from all over North County here,” said Rudisell.

Rudisell reminded community members that while it may be easy to ask for injunctions or tear down areas known to be gang hangouts, they must think through their actions.

“Think of the consequences to the solutions you offer,” he said. “The gang wall that was removed may have helped clear an area where gang members would hang out, but now it may become a dumping site.”

Rudisell thanked community members, representatives from local schools and the Sheriff’s Department for attending the meeting.

“With all of you here, we should be able to come up with a solution that allows us to discourage gang activity,” said Rudisell.

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