- Associated Press - Tuesday, July 7, 2015

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) - The Omaha Police Department is sharing its plans to combat an increasing number of gang-related shootings in the city.

Omaha Police Chief Todd Schmaderer and Mayor Jean Stothert spoke Monday about what’s driving violent crime and how they’re going to stop it. Although Omaha has less violent crime than it did four to eight years ago, gang and gun violence caused it to increase in January, May and June, according to Schmaderer and Stothert.

“2015 has had aggressive outbreaks of violence, and it is important to define what that violence is - gang members shooting each other and retaliating back and forth,” Schmaderer said. “It’s those gang members that are causing all of the problems for our city.”

The Police Department has asked Nebraska State Patrol to help it patrol areas that have seen the most gang violence. The joint effort will allow officers to arrest more violent gang members, Schmaderer said, adding that about 11 gangs are responsible for most of the violent crimes in Omaha.

Recently, the city has seen a significant rise in gun and gang violence, but the number of shootings is down compared with 2007, when police reported 95 gun assault incidents in the first six months of that year, Schmaderer said. Also, there have been fewer gun assaults compared with the period from 2007 to 2011, he said.

A multipronged approach implemented by the department has resulted in the decrease in gun assaults, according to Schmaderer.

More officers on the department’s gang unit already are working in north Omaha. Stothert said the department has been working to building trust with the community.

“That proactive approach makes us who we are,” she said. “We will never be a Baltimore or a Ferguson.”

The city also plans to increase the number of officers on patrol and allow them to work additional overtime. By 2016, Stothert wants to the police force to grow from 804 to 840 officers.

“Public safety is our No. 1 priority and keeping our citizens safe is something we take very, very seriously,” she said.

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