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    Senior Member FedUpinFarmersBranch's Avatar
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    May 2008

    Austin seeing surge in crime by gang members, police say

    Austin seeing surge in crime by gang members, police say
    New statistical analysis shows 65 percent rise, though causes still uncertain.
    By Tony Plohetski

    Friday, March 27, 2009

    The number of crimes linked to gang members in Austin jumped 65 percent from 2007 to 2008 — a period that also saw an increase in the overall number of documented gang members on city streets, according to new police statistics.

    The analysis showed that last year, Austin had 1,617 crimes in which gang members were either suspects or were arrested, compared with 982 in 2007. The crimes ranged from drug possession to aggravated assaults, robberies and thefts.

    Meanwhile, the number of documented gang members rose from about 1,000 in late 2007 to 1,308 in 2008. Police said some such members participated in multiple crimes.

    Officials said the information represents the most comprehensive analysis of gang membership Austin police have taken. They are using the data, compiled this week, in part to apply for a federal U.S. Department of Justice grant that they said would be used to buy surveillance equipment and to pay overtime to officers working special gang operations.

    "Anytime you see an increase like that, it is a concern," said Assistant Police Chief David Carter, the department's chief of staff. "The point is that it makes it very clear that this has to be a major responsibility for the department to get its hands around."

    Austin police for years have documented a person as a gang member if they meet at least two of six criteria in state laws, including whether they admit to a gang affiliation or have tattoos or display other gang insignia.

    Officials said they have been making a more concerted effort in the past year to document such gang members when they are stopped by officers, arrested or questioned about their knowledge of other crimes.

    Police said those efforts could have contributed to an overall increase in the number of documented gang members — and a rise in crimes linked to them.Other reasons for the increase, Carter said, will probably require more police analysis.

    Carter said he thinks the increase could be due to increased interest in drug trafficking, particularly as drugs supplies are more restricted and controlled by cartels along the U.S.-Mexico border. He said it is possible that gangs could be loosely connected to such cartels.

    Officials said that to create the analysis, statisticians compared names of people arrested or suspected in crimes during the past two years with names of documented gang members.

    The new analysis also comes as gang suppression efforts have become a focal point of new legislation.

    Cmdr. Sean Mannix, who recently took over the department's organized crime division from Cmdr. Phil Crochet, cited the new information during a presentation this week at the Capitol to express support for new laws combating gangs.

    "The gang threat in Texas is the greatest homeland security issue facing us right now," said state Sen. John Carona, R-Dallas, chairman of the Senate Transportation and Homeland Security Committee that oversees gang-enforcement issues. "It's a huge problem. Gangs today are more organized, more violent then ever before. They pose a real threat."

    The results of the Austin police analysis contradict statements to the American-Statesman in recent months among investigators and organized crime division supervisors that, based on anecdotal evidence, gang activity in Austin was not on the rise.

    Carter and Mannix said the agency has been working in recent months to obtain more complete information about gangs and that new databases and record-keeping systems have helped their efforts.

    The new police analysis included information about which patrol areas of town saw the most gang member crimes — Central-East Austin had the highest percentage in 2008 — immediately followed by Southeast and South-Central — and a breakdown of crimes by types of gangs.

    Members of the Tango Blast, whose members group together in prison based on their hometowns, were arrested for or suspects in 247 crimes, compared with 167 for the Bloods and 153 for the Crips.

    According to the analysis, more than 300 crimes in which gang members were suspects or were arrested involved drugs, the most of any type of crime.

    Other types of crimes also increased.

    For instance, documented gang members were involved in 17 robbery cases in 2007, compared with 34 in 2008. In 2007, police said, gang members were involved in 26 aggravated assaults, compared with 43 in 2008. Thefts went from 66 in 2007 to 115 in 2008.

    "A lot of their violence is aimed at each other," Mannix said. "The average Austinite doesn't need to fear that they are necessarily going to be a victim of gangs." ... gangs.html
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    Senior Member vmonkey56's Avatar
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