- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 6, 2006

Officials from Montgomery and Prince George’s counties asked the federal government yesterday for an additional $1.4 million to continue efforts to stop gang violence.

The officials are part of the counties’ Joint County Gang Prevention Task Force and said the money would go toward more after-school programs, outreach services, youth centers and gang investigations.

“The majority of gang members are young people …,” said Montgomery County Council President George L. Leventhal, a Democrat. “When young people cannot find stability, support, friendship and activities in their own homes, schools and communities, they become vulnerable to the invitations of gang recruiters.”

Mr. Leventhal made the request in Takoma Park at a field hearing held by the House Government Reform Committee. Rep. Thomas M. Davis III, Virginia Republican, is the chairman of the committee.

The 2-year-old task force has already received $2 million in federal funds to combat gang activity.

However, John A. King, Montgomery County’s assistant police chief, said there was a 30 percent increase in gang activity from November 2005 to May 2006. There also was a 30 percent increase in crimes attributed to gang members during that period, he said.

Chief King also said that from April through June 2006, 24 gangs were involved in incidents in the county. He said three of the gangs committed 67 percent of the incidents. Crips were involved in 21 incidents, while the Bloods and MS-13 committed 18 each.

“We cannot just put handcuffs on the members of MS-13, the Bloods and the Crips,” said Capt. Milburne Lynn, commander of Prince George’s County Police Department’s Violent Crimes Task Force. “The problem will not just disappear.”

Montgomery County Executive Douglas M. Duncan and Prince George’s County Executive Jack B. Johnson helped start the task force. Mr. Duncan did not attend the hearing because he was undergoing hip surgery.

Northern Virginia has a similar task force, composed of 13 jurisdictions.

The counties’ partnership includes the Crossroads Youth Opportunity Center at Takoma Park and Langley Park to combat youth violence.

Carolyn W. Colvin, director of Montgomery County’s Department of Health and Human Services, said the center has served 100 youths and their families since May.

Robert Green, the warden of the Montgomery County Correctional Facility in Boyds, said 108 gang members are now in the jail.

The hearing also included testimony from Montgomery County resident Richard A. Brown.

“I am a reformed gangster and concerned Montgomery County citizen,” he said. “I’ve got two beautiful, handsome sons and adopted a little girl. I don’t want to see what happened to me happen to my kids.”

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