FORT WAYNE, Ind. (Indiana’s NewsCenter) – There's been a rash of shootings and homicides this summer, and Fort Wayne Police (FWPD) blame gang activity for most of them.
Police say for the past several years, many gang members have been in jail for other crimes not related to shootings or homicides. Now that their sentences are up, they're back out on the streets.
“Although it might not be what I would necessarily call ‘gang violence,’ as far as one gang shooting at another gang, there are gang members that are involved in a lot of the most recent shootings and homicides we’ve been having,” said Sgt. Tom Strausborger with FWPD’s Gang Unit.
Sgt. Strausborger says they’re able to keep track of gang members through a database called the Indiana Gang Network. He says a significant thing about gangs in Fort Wayne, is they're more like "cliques,” or groups of friends who grew up together from the same area, instead of gangs.
“It’s not a turf war, it’s not over territories. A lot of times it just starts off as ‘I don’t like you, you don’t like me’ and that’s how they form their cliques anyway,” he said.
Sgt. Strausborger says they beef over things like money, drugs, and women, and it often carries over into crimes like robberies and shootings.
“They’re beefing with each other for whatever the case may be,” he said. “So when they’re committing crimes, a lot of this is fall out over that.”
“A lot of these crimes are being perpetrated amongst themselves. They’re committing these crimes against other gang members. Unfortunately sometimes it does spill over into the community.”
That’s why Sgt. Strausborger says FWPD is doing everything they can to get the community more involved in helping to stop the violence.
“There’s always been a big push on the whole ‘don’t snitch,’ don’t talk about what’s going on, and that’s always been a problem,” he said. “When we make ourselves more approachable, people are more willing to come and approach us. So the thought or the fear of talking to the police, we're trying to do away with that and get more people willing to come talk.”
He says since the police have done a better job of reaching out to people, they’ve gathered valuable information on suspects from various shootings. In fact, they were able to make an arrest the other day. He says by building a better relationship with the community, police will be better able to protect residents.
FWPD Gang Unit has partnered with the FBI Safe Streets task force, which specifically targets the prevention of young people in joining gangs and eliminating gangs in neighborhoods. Sgt. Strausborger says many robberies, shootings, and the sale of drugs and weapons are often related, which is why the Gang Unit works closely with the Robberies & Homicides as well as the Vice & Narcotics divisions within FWPD.
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