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Agencies join forces to tackle violent gangs
“Our objective is not simply to disrupt gangs; it’s to dismantle them,” said Adam W. Cohen, director of GangTECC.
The FBI has identified 30,000 violent street, motorcycle and prison gangs with about 800,000 members nationwide. Many of the gangs are sophisticated and well-organized, the FBI said, using violence to control neighborhoods and make money through illegal activities.
Congress authorized $10 million to establish NGIC. Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales created GangTECC, and the Justice Department set up the Gang Squad.
“It’s really a mishmash, and it’s worked out really well,” said NGIC program director Michael B. Brunton. “Before it was every agency did their own gang investigations. That was fine … but it wasn’t cohesive.”
NGIC develops patterns by analyzing gang tattoos, colors, codes, hand signs and habits. It sends that information to state and local agencies and task force partners. GangTECC uses the data to help field agents develop strategies.
“Much of the nation’s gang problem is very neighborhood-based,” Mr. Cohen said. “So we have to begin looking at linkages, crossovers, connections and commonalities.”
He said gangs in different cities might share names, colors or symbols, but not operations.
For law enforcement groups to “attack these as organizations, there really has to be some outside-of-the-box thinking,” Mr. Cohen said.
The criminal cases go to the Gang Squad prosecutors.
State and local authorities are responsible for gangs that confine themselves to specific cities, but the task forces take on gangs with a regional, national or international scope, such as MS-13.
Mr. Cohen said many of the gang leaders can still direct criminal activity from prison and that GangTECC uses data on imprisoned gang members to apprehend those who commit crimes on the street.
NGIC and GangTECC can help street agents identify where gangs obtain weapons and drugs, and provide information quickly to local and state officials.
In one case, Mr. Brunton said, a Florida school security officer who found the coded notebook of a gang suspect sent it to NGIC. Within 12 hours, the notebook had been decoded and identified as a hit list in a Columbine-type shooting plot, he said.
Mr. Carwile said the RICO strategy is designed to guarantee that no one gang can become “that entrenched or that sophisticated again.”
He said, “Our mission is to attack the most organized gangs, so we’re going to have to use the same tools we used against organized crime syndicates.”
About the Author
By Donald Lambro
Growth spikes are little more than trend-free anomalies
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