Sun Prairie leaders consider public transportation to deal with gang problem

Police find gun, ammunition in student’s backpack

Calling gang activity an “inescapable truth,” Sun Prairie city leaders were presented with recommendations Wednesday for what to do about the growing issue.

The city’s Youth and Families Commission said more school funding, transportation and volunteer options are needed. The group also recommends implementing student suggestions and developing a community center.

The report presented to Sun Prairie’s Common Council and school board does not indicate whether any of the 14 gangs it says are currently impacting the city are actually impacting juvenile criminal activity.

Mayor Paul Esser said the numbers do not mean gang activity is a pervasive problem; it is a problem he said needs to be proactively dealt with.

“We’ve got to address it before it gets locked into place, and the real issue is gangs are created because there are needs that are not being met for children in the community,” Esser said. “And we want to get at those needs.”

Many youths in the community feel access to public transportation is a way for them to get to jobs and stay out of trouble.

“When they’re stuck in one area, they get involved in drugs, and doing things like vandalism and other crimes because they have nowhere to go,” incoming junior Kara Grajkowski said. “They more or less say they know if they had something to keep them busy they wouldn’t be following in the wrong path. They’d be taking life more in their own hands and taking care of themselves.”

Esser said the challenge behind that idea is the money, as certain leaders are prioritizing spending on things like roads and parks over public transportation.

Sun Prairie is considering the idea as leaders work toward building their 2016 budget.