There have been a lot of distractions when it comes to law enforcement resources.
Issues related to homelessness, drugs, and immigration seem to dominate the headlines. Many have forgotten that gang-related crime is still a significant public safety issue.
We were reminded of this last week when City of Fontana gang investigators discovered an underground bunker complete with a shooting range underneath a home in their city. A number of weapons were recovered from the bunker, including an assault rifle with a high-capacity drum magazine. I wonder what they were going to use that for? Hmmm.
Run an internet search for your city under the news section on “gang related” and see how many articles come up. Chances are you had no idea how much crime is associated with gangs.
In most major cities in the country the majority of homicides are gang related. The Los Angeles Police Department webpage reports that “during the last three years, there were over 16,398 verified violent gang crimes in the City of Los Angeles. These include 491 homicides, nearly 7,047 felony assaults, approximately 5,518 robberies and just under 98 rapes.”
That is lot of crime. These types of crime have the most impact on neighborhoods and public safety. Gangs use guns in their crimes, and the vast majority of these guns are stolen and trafficked by gang members in back alley deals.
In December 2018, the Orange County Violent Gang Task Force arrested nine people on federal narcotics and firearms charges.
“Street gangs and their members with extensive criminal histories continue to remain a menace to neighborhoods here in Orange County and throughout California,” said Paul Delacourt, the assistant director in charge of the FBI field office in Los Angeles.
Efforts to track gang-related crime on a nationwide level have made it difficult to track data related to gang membership and crimes committed by gang members. Add to that movements in some cities and states to eliminate gang databases and you’ll understand why it has become increasingly difficult to capture the true number of crimes being committed and the number of people being victimized by gangs.
The best gang-related crime tracking is probably being done by the individual agencies as they respond to calls for service and crimes, including everything from gang-related graffiti to aggravated assaults and car jackings committed by gang members. The Fresno Police Department has adopted the innovative strategy of naming gang members and their gang affiliation in its Facebook postings of police activity to increase public awareness of the impact of gangs in their community.
Community prevention and deterrence are effective ways of dealing with gangs, but law enforcement needs to be proactive to adequately protect communities from gang members who chose to involve themselves in criminal behavior. Tracking gang-related crime and gang members is a practical and effective way of policing and has to be made a priority.
Joe is a retired police captain. You can reach him at email@example.com.