A new memo about Chandler’s recent troubles with gangs is punctuated with this stark statement: “It is unrealistic to believe that any city will ever be able to completely eliminate the gang problem.”
But that apparently hasn’t stopped the city from trying.
The 23-page memo was written by City Manager Mark Pentz and sent Friday to the mayor and council. In it, he details the steps police and other departments have taken to combat the recent “surge in gang activity.”
The council asked Pentz at a meeting in December to put together the report after learning of residents’ growing concerns about gangs and the rise in crime.
Much of those worries were voiced following the shooting death of a teenage mother. The woman, 19-year-old Lindsay Key, wasn’t considered a gang member but was killed outside a house party during an exchange of gang-related gunfire.
Other gang crimes in Chandler had been recorded in court documents and officers, which have attributed the rise in gang activity to convicted gang members being let out of prison and returning to the streets.
And the problem hasn’t just been isolated to Chandler. Almost two weeks ago, federal, state and local police agencies held a joint news conference in Phoenix where they outlined their cooperation to fight gangs. Authorities said they were planning to collaborate as they’ve noticed a new “hybrid” breed of gangs that crosses city and state boundaries to conduct, at times, organized crime.
“The responsibility for resolving Chandler’s gang problem does not lie with any individual department or unit,” Pentz wrote, “but instead will be the result of collaborative efforts on the part of the city, non-profits and residents.”
Most of the actions by city departments had already been detailed by Pentz and other department heads at the same meeting, but council members had asked for a thorough written report.
Martin Sepulveda, who is Pentz’s biggest critic on the council, said on Monday night sees the report as “a starting point,” but noted it does not lay out long-term plans for the problem.
Sepulveda wants to see a document in the future that is “adaptable.”
“I hope to God that the gang issue we see today will be different in six, eight, 10 years,” Sepulveda said.
Pentz’s memo highlighted several ongoing or upcoming efforts by the city:
• Tripling the number of police in the city’s gang unit, including hiring a sergeant to be in charge of it.
• More than doubling the number of Gang Liaison Officers who are assigned to focus more on gang issues.
• Providing more gang training to officers who patrol downtown where most of the activity has been concentrated.
• Heavily target the downtown area to get rid of junk cars, abandoned vehicles, weeds and other such issues.
• Continue to work with neighborhood organizations and leaders.
• Provide grants to improve downtown.
Sepulveda said a full copy of the memo will likely be made available on the city’s Web site today.