No neighborhood or even rural area is exempt from gangs, a coalition of law-enforcement agencies reported Thursday while pledging to renew efforts to clamp down on what they believe is becoming a more organized and diverse crime problem.
More than a dozen officials from local, state and federal law-enforcement agencies, including the FBI, announced efforts to fight gang activity across jurisdictional boundaries.
During an informational news conference at the FBI’s office in Phoenix, officials said gang activity has transformed from territorial to mobile and from loosely operated to organized crime, FBI Agent in Charge John Lewis said.
Although representatives from law-enforcement agencies agreed that more resources are being dedicated to gang investigations, officials struggled to identify specifically how many arrests are gang-related or how much it has risen in the Valley.
None of the law officials would comment on whether there were any forthcoming gang arrests or sting operations.
Drug trafficking, home invasions and aggravated assaults are among the crimes gangs are bringing here from Southern California on a more united front, mostly for monetary purposes, Lewis said.
“We’re seeing dynamic changes in gang activity,” Lewis said. “They have evolved into hybrid gangs, banding together to commit a variety of crimes that include intimidation and indiscriminate violence.”
Gang activity also has spread in the state’s prisons, where known gang members are segregated.
Of the state’s roughly 36,000 inmates, 2,200 of them are members of some gang trying to undermine prison operations, Department of Corrections Director Dora Schriro said.
Even upscale communities in the Valley are experiencing a spike in gang-related activity. Scottsdale police Cmdr. Barry Vassall said violent crimes and property crimes in the city again are on the rise after a five-year decline.
Between Jan. 4 and Sept. 24, 2006, police attributed 68 incidents in Scottsdale as being gang-related — mostly criminal damage and auto thefts, according to information from the police department.
It has caused the city to implement two full-time detectives to investigate gang-related activity in the last six to eight months, Vassall said.
“Gang problems are a problem everywhere,” Vassall said. “There’s literally dozens of gangs in the Valley, and yes, they’re in Scottsdale. We’re not immune from the issue.”
During the last year, the Chandler Police Department initiated a gang liaison program with each of its 15 patrol teams per shift, detective Livi Kacic said.
Last week, a sergeant was named to supervise a four-member gang unit that is expected to be working in about a week, Kacic said.
No specific gang-related arrest numbers were available from Chandler.
“We’re trying to cut down on gang-related activity by gang suppression — trying to identify who’s running with these gangs and who isn’t,” Kacic said.
The Phoenix Police Department recognized that city had a gang problem 20 years ago, and now has five gang units and one assigned to the FBI, said Joe Klima, commander of the department’s Violent Crimes Bureau.
“There is not a neighborhood that is immune from gangs,” Klima said.