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Regional Gang Team Officer
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SanBernardino County Department of Public Health
"The place has really cleaned up," said San Bernardino County Probation Department and SMASH Regional Gang Team officer Nathan Scarano.
"When the hit-ups, or tagging, goes up on the wall, Victorville has done a really good job of cleaning it up." In 2007, there were 152 violent crimes reported in the city's Old Town area, according to San Bernardino County Sheriff's Victorville station officials. That number dropped to 110 in 2008. Scarano has been on the SMASH team since its inception in 2005 and has seen a difference not only in the crime rate, but also in the look of the neighborhood.
Nathan Scarano and other members of the SMASH team conduct a home check on a probationer and suspected gang member in Adelanto. "Every year we are making an impact and raising awareness about the problem," said county probation and SMASH Officer Nathan Scarano.There has been an influx of gangs and gang members from other areas including San Bernardino and Los Angeles according Scarano.He added that as the general population increases, it stands to reason that the gang population would also increase.Scarano, who has been a part of the SMASH unit since its inception in 2004, has seen an increase in gang activity in the past few years, but has also seen a surge in community-based programs and education.According to Scarano, the gang members have taken notice."We've had the gang members tell us, we don't like you, but we respect you," he said.
Hybrid gangs have begun to plague the High Desert and some of them have been spawned by crews in high schools and even middle schools, according to Probation Officer Nathan Scarano with the SMASH gang unit."Hybrid gangs can be comprised from different races, can have members from rival gangs and can use numerous colors," said Scarano, adding that it is this mixture that makes them very dangerous.These hybrid gangs have no traditions and therefore that makes them volatile and unpredictable, Scarano said.What pushes them to gang status is when they come together for the purpose of committing crimes, Scarano said.He also added that this occurs when a traditional gang either absorbs the crew as a part of the gang or when the crew is forced to defend themselves by fighting or carrying weapons.The High Desert seems to have a disproportionately high number of hybrid gangs in contrast to traditional gangs, said Scarano, a member of the SMASH team since its inception.
Nathan Scarano probation officer for the San Bernardino County Sheriff's Department and part of the SMASH Gang Enforcement Team stands in front of gang graffiti in Adelanto on Wednesday. "A lot of the prominent street gangs right now in the High Desert that are very criminally active actually originated in the local middle and high schools," said Nathan Scarano, a probation officer for the San Bernardino County Sheriff's Department."That is why it is imperative that we get prevention and intervention services within those schools to address those issues while they're still young and basically attack the root cause."Scarano shared statistics such as these with about 200 educators, law enforcers and community members attended the first meeting of the High Desert Gangs and Drugs Task Force Wednesday at a lesson on gang identification.He shared pictures of some identifying marks that he has come across while working as a member of the SMASH Gang Enforcement Team in the High Desert, including tattoos and graffiti.Some popular local gang symbols include "760" and "IE," and gangs display these symbols on their skin, clothing and tagging around town he said. Scarano also discussed the large number of hybrid gangs in the High Desert, and how many gang members are "bred" in our local schools.
Nathan Scarano - Supervising Probation Officer, San Bernardino County Probation Department, Criminal Intelligence Unit