Consolidating gang, narcotics units is sensible

It’s hard to put a good face on the loss of $71 million in state revenue that helped fund drug and gang task forces in dozens of California counties.

San Luis Obispo County’s share was between $300,000 and $400,000 per year. That money was used by the countywide Narcotics Task Force to pay for supervision, training, office rental and other expenses. Several local agencies — including the county and all but one of the seven cities — contributed personnel or funds to the task force.

But with the state money drying up at the end of the year, the SLO County Narcotics Task Force is disbanding, though it may come back in another form. Plans are under way to combine and expand two units currently within the Sheriff’s Office — the gang task force and narcotics unit — into one multi-agency task force.

The plan has merit, and we strongly urge city and county officials to get behind it.

Merging gang and narcotics units makes sense because, as Sheriff Ian Parkinson points out, drug and gang cases are often related. The merger also will allow for more collaboration and sharing of resources. That’s especially critical in light of the recent upsurge in gang violence.

As Tribune writer Cynthia Lambert reported on Sunday, authorities believe last month’s fatal shooting of 17-year-old Gabriel Salgado of Oceano was gang-related, though the victim himself was not associated or involved with a gang. In addition, authorities say there have been several gang-related incidents in Paso Robles over the past year, including an attempted murder, a drive-by shooting and a shooting at an apartment complex.

Under the circumstances, the last thing we should do is throw up our hands and lighten up on enforcement because California happens to be broke.

We strongly urge each city — including Morro Bay, which has not been part of the countywide Narcotics Task Force — as well as other local law enforcement agencies to participate to the fullest extent possible in supporting a revamped task force.

It may never again be business as usual in California, but in this era of doing more with less, pooling resources is one of the best ways for local governments to operate as efficiently and effectively as possible. And we can’t imagine a better reason to join forces than to prevent the needless and tragic death of another young person through gang violence.

Editorials are the opinion of The Tribune.