Monday, September 19, 2016


Fighting street gang violence involves problem solving. As in any battle, it is crucial that we muster the human resolve to succeed. In law enforcement many departments use a 4 phase process called the S.A.R.A. model.

The word SARA is an acronym for (Scan, Analyze, Respond, and Assess) and has been used in fighting crime with great success and tenacity by police departments nationwide. The following is an example of how this works beginning with Phase One.


Let’s say that there are reports of criminal activity occurring daily at a nearby park. During Phase One, the scanning phase of S.A.R.A we make a crime analysis check which reveals that area gangs are conducting criminal activities there.

The crime checks include reports to police, assaults and gang-related activities. A bad place for park goers, but a haven for gangs.

With the scanning phase complete, the next challenge is for officers to gain a better prospective on exactly what is occurring at the park. This brings us to Phase Two.


From setting up surveillance to looking at crime reports, there are several ways to analyze. For this particular scenario it’s best we use house-to-house survey campaigns.

By talking to the grassroots citizens who use the park and the residents living around it, many facts about the park can be revealed. Surveys are the only way to find those people who were inconvenienced and many more who were unreported crime victims.

Sample questions specifically might be:

Do you visit the park?

When using the park, do you feel safe?

Do you think problems exist in the park?

What are the major problems in the park?

Have you or anyone you know been a victim in the park? And the most important.

How can the park be improved?

Now with a sufficient number of people surveyed and the answers analyzed we can now provide for S.A.R.A.’s Phase Three.


Having scanned and analyzed the problems we can now make our recommendations. Here’s a sample of some that are typical:

Paint over all graffiti

Install more lighting

Post signs prohibiting criminal acts. And most important.

Increase in police presence with a positive interaction with the citizens. High police visibility being the design.

The plan is set to make the park a positive, safe place again and making way for the opportunity to move on to the final Phase Four.


With the implementation of these combined recommendations we can evaluate and hopefully discover an anti-gang atmosphere emerging. If not, the plan may require some additional tweaking like ramping up enforcement and visibility.

In just a few short months if area residents begin coming back and using the park again then we’ve arrived successfully.

Youth gangs not only significantly affects their future but can cause community decay. It would be preferable to prevent this. By responding with environmental management using the S.A.R.A. model, a better life can be attained for a community; a testament to how fighting street gang violence involves problem solving.

Is the struggle to keep the park safe over? Not by a long shot; as long as there are gangs it will remain an ongoing battle. But it’s the good fight.

Johnny Russell, SDPD retired

Johnny Russell has had a 30 year career in law enforcement and is author of the gang/cops novel, First Blood, available at all online bookstores.