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updated: 9/18/2012 5:13 PM

Gangs topic of discussion at upcoming library event

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Violent crime statistics may be down in Elgin, but community organizations in collaboration with government agencies are working to further engage the public and continue the downward trend.

Gail Borden Library was one of 30 libraries nationwide to receive a $2,500 Building Common Ground grant from the American Library Association and the Fetzer Institute to host a series of events that encourage the community to discuss the issue of gang-related violence with civility and compassion.

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The Building Common Ground: From Turfs to Common Ground series continues on Sunday, Sept. 23, with "A Guide to Gangs and Violence." A presentation in English will take place from 2 to 3:15 p.m., and another in Spanish will follow at 3:30 p.m. in Meeting Room 1 of the library, 270 N. Grove Ave., Elgin. The event is free.

Tina Viglucci, Hispanic services manager at Gail Borden, said the presentation will consist of an overview of gangs and the types of activities that are found in Elgin, warning signs and how the community can proactively address the issue.

"It is all about the youth," Viglucci said. "We are aware and Elgin police have told us that gang participation has dwindled. It is not where it used to be in Elgin. But gangs are still affecting the youth, and for whatever reason it still continues to draw in young people. As a community we need to take a proactive approach to learn what it's all about and what we can do to understand the problem better."

Statistics from the Elgin Police Department show gang-motivated crimes and arrests through August 2012 are down by almost 50 cases when compared to the same time last year. Additionally, there were 255 gang-related crimes and arrests in 2011, down from 428 in 2010.

Miriam Lytle, division chief of community services and program development at the library, said the numbers are decreasing thanks to the heroic efforts of the police department.

"We want to take the opportunity of that trend and making sure we are reaching children who are easily influenced," Lytle said. "This is an opportunity for parents and the community in general to understand the culture and why there are problems in Elgin and how we can all help to uproot the issues by creating stronger community and civic engagement."

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