As Chandler street gangs are beefing up their numbers, the police force has decided it will, too, by reinforcing its gang unit.
Police Chief Sherry Kiyler talked late Thursday about her plans for the department’s “stepped up focus” on gangs before speaking publicly at the City Council’s regular meeting.
The changes are being announced nearly two weeks after a young Chandler mother, Lindsay Key, 19, was shot and killed in an exchange of gang gunfire that left five people wounded. Police have said the incident escalated from a fight that happened earlier that day.
Court documents and interviews with police and gang experts have revealed that Chandler has been dealing with a rise in gang violence. Police have attributed it to the release of gang members who had spent the last several years in prison, but are back on the streets and returning to their old ways after finishing their sentences.
The department has just two cops dedicated to gang crimes, but Kiyler said Thursday she’s aiming to triple that number to six by July.
In the meantime, the chief plans to ask officers to work overtime, and she’ll dispatch more officers to the downtown Chandler area where gang activity has been on the rise.
Police also intend to increase public education to raise awareness of gangs, Kiyler promised. Authorities will also add information about gang enforcement to the police department’s Web site.
By the time this article was published, the City Council still had not begin discussing the matter of gangs with the chief.
Last weekend, the department launched an effort to increase monitoring for gang activity, with help from a special statewide gang task force, and devoted 15 liaison officers to work on the issue.
The department has faced criticism from some frustrated local residents. Resident Jorge Alire complained at a community meeting earlier this week that police have failed to follow through on their promises to address the issue.
Now, the city is dealing with at least eight gangs, four of them fighting for control over territory in Chandler. Their members include a mixture of convicted offenders out of prison, as well as some young members that have been recruited to gang life. Most of them are Hispanic, police and gang experts said.