Santa Clara County Probation Department Gang Unit Being ‘Restructured'

NBC Bay Area has learned the Santa Clara County chief of probation is cutting the juvenile gang unit by more than half and is transferring those remaining officers to another department.

But the name of the gang unit will no longer exist.

When kids leave juvenile hall, many will head over to the probation department for mandated supervision. Now, the chief of probation assures the juvenile gang unit is not being eliminated. But critics say that claim is false.

Starting Monday, the probation department will no longer have a specialized unit to deal with juvenile members.

"This could be life threatening," said Mark Murray, deputy probation officer. "These are very dangerous young people who are organized and attempting to harm people in our community."

In a statement, the probation chief told NBC Bay Area "An internal decision was made by the Juvenile Services Division Management Team to restructure the Juvenile Gang Unit and move three Probation Officer positions into a Specialized Programs Unit that offers a higher level of service."

The statement goes on to say the decision will improve the supervision and treatment of gang youth, and it will keep the public safer.

"This is a prudent decision that will improve our supervision and treatment of gang related youth, resulting in better public safety than the current model," the probation chief said in a statement.

But the head of the union for probation officers said the move treats gang members like other juveniles who break the law. He said gang members need to be treated differently.

"This is organized criminal activity," Murray said.

After a meeting with the probation chief, San Jose Police Chief Eddie Garcia said he is taking a wait and see approach.

"She assured us that it will be business as usual," Garcia said. "And this shift would not impact my gang investigators. So long as that's the case, I'm going to take the chief at her word."

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