- Associated Press - Saturday, March 4, 2017

HOUSTON (AP) - Law enforcement officials in Houston have raised concerns about increased gang-related violence, including two officers wounded by a suspect who was then fatally shot by police.

The violence comes amid a spike in gang-related killings and assaults in recent months, the Houston Chronicle (https://bit.ly/2lmcrcR ) reported.

Houston police Sgt. Clint Ponder, with the Gang Intelligence Unit, says investigators want to know why.

“The gang issue we’ve had here in Houston has always been like this,” Ponder said. “It goes through peaks in valleys. And right now we’re seeing an uptick. We’re absolutely seeing an uptick.”

Officers Ronny Cortez and Jose Muñoz were shot Tuesday during a burglary investigation. The shooter was a gang member who recently served three years for burglary and weapons violations, according to authorities.

Days later, two gang members laughed outside a courtroom after facing a judge on charges of murder and aggravated kidnapping of young women, the Chronicle reported. A drive-by shooting in southeast Houston last month sent three men to the hospital.

Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg has promised a tough stance on gang members who commit crimes.

“We are going to seek stiff penalties against violent gang members: heftier charges, higher bonds and harsher sentences,” said Ogg, who previously worked as Houston’s Anti-Gang Task Force Director and wrote a book on community efforts to fight gangs. “Regarding gang members, these are the people we need to pull out of the pack. Gang members pose a greater threat together than they do as individuals, because of their collective strength, access to bail money, weapons, and the ability to intimidate witnesses.”

About 20,000 gang members, belonging to at least 300 gangs, live in the Houston region, said FBI Supervisory Agent Mark Sabol.

Houston is the nation’s fourth-largest city, with a population of topping 2.1 million, according to city figures.

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Online:

https://www.stophoustongangs.org/

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Information from: Houston Chronicle, https://www.houstonchronicle.com

Copyright © 2018 The Washington Times, LLC.

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