FAIRFIELD — In the battle against crime, a condominium with a bad reputation can be a model, Larry Bluford said.
Bluford, head of the evangelical ministry Operation THUGS, said recent violent crimes in Fairfield haven’t happened at the 240-unit Parkway Gardens off Dover Avenue. The Break the Cycle program there has helped turned things around after fatal shootings at the condominium, he said.
“If we have the power to shift crime out of that neighborhood,” Bluford said, “why not have the power to shift it out of the city?”
A special community meeting of the Fairfield City Council will take place from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesday in Willow Hall at the Fairfield Community Center, 1000 Kentucky St., to talk about crime, blight and homelessness.
Bluford said gangs complicate the effort to combat crime because of the loyalty members have for their gang. He recalled how as a younger man he heard a gang member say he would die for him.
“It made me feel like I was loved,” Bluford said.
Jim Hernandez, a criminal justice professor at California State University, Sacramento who has testified at about 70 trials as an expert in street gangs, said the associations hold a strong lure for some.
“They don’t have anything else,” Hernandez said of members.
“If you belong to a group that scares people,” the professor said, “at least that’s something.”
Gang membership provides an image of toughness that can’t be bought, said Hernandez. This solidarity of the street, however, is often broken, he said. Gang members end up testifying against each other in court, Hernandez said.
The criminal justice professor said that as second- and third-generation Italian-Americans working as police and prosecutors took on the Mafia, a range of ethnic and racial groups are now working in law enforcement against gangs.
Bluford said gangs and their weapons provide a false sense of toughness.
“A 5-year-old child can pull a trigger,” he said.
Fairfield resident Rod Ferroggiaro, who worked as a correctional officer at San Quentin where he had to deal with prison gangs, said the criminal associations provide people with an identity.
“That’s where they can get recognition,” he said. “You’re somebody.”
Gangs have grown in part, Ferroggiaro said, because it’s easier now for young men to survive on the edges of society. In mid-20th century America, a young man without a job would starve, he said.
THUGS leader Bluford said programs to combat crime have to be multidimensional and include education and training. Success can come if people aren’t worried about who gets credit and make alliances with community organizations.
Fairfield’s fight against crime will take time, he said.
“It’s not something at the end of the year we can wave our flag and say we did that,” Bluford said.
But a city that comes together will prove a force to take on violence.
“Our answer,” Bluford said, “is unity.”
Reach Ryan McCarthy at 427-6935 or email@example.com.