June 13, 2011 5:16 PM
Beatriz Valenzuela
Staff Writer

The economic woes that have plagued the state, county and Victor Valley cities could lead to reductions in specialized law enforcement teams.

Due to budgetary cuts, some members of local gang teams may be reassigned, according to those close to the program.

“As far as the (San Bernardino County) Sheriff’s Department is concerned, there are no plans to cut any of the positions from the gang team although many of the teams are not just made up of sheriff’s department employees,” Cindy Bachman, spokeswoman for the sheriff’s department said and confirmed that at least one officer from an outside agency had been taken off of one of the desert gang teams. But some believe more can be at risk.

Sgt. Stan Wijnhamer recently had to go to bat for an integral member of his gang team whose position was in danger of being eliminated.

According to Wijnhamer, there has been a rise in the number of gang members and gangs within the last five years and a reduction of gang team members would not be wise.

“I have 10, 5-inch binders with documented gang members just in Hesperia from all different gangs,” he said. “It’s dangerous for us to do any kind of elimination of any member of any gang team in the desert.”

He acknowledged with cities and counties looking to trim their budgets, teams like SMASH could be reduced or eliminated.

“We were told that we would not be cut but, really, it all depends on the budget,” he said. “We’re the specialized team and we’re the extra.”

To read more about possible cuts, see the full story in Tuesday’s Daily Press. Get complete stories every day with the “exactly as printed” Daily Press E-edition, only $5 per month! Click here to try it free for 7 days. To subscribe to the Daily Press in print or online, call (760) 241-7755, 1-800-553-2006 or click here.

Beatriz E. Valenzuela may be reached at (760) 951-6276 or at BValenzuela@VVDailyPress.com.