PUEBLO – Solving the gang problem is going to take more resources than what’s currently available despite increased patrol and help from the FBI, according to officers from the Pueblo Police Department and Pueblo Sheriff Department.
The two agencies presented to the Southern Colorado Press Club on Tuesday.
In August, local law enforcement agencies were able to make 47 gang-related arrests in a two-day period with the help from the FBI’s Safe Streets Task Force.
But that kind of policing can’t happen every weekend, Capt. Charlie Taylor with the Pueblo Police Department told attendees at the monthly luncheon.
There are only 86 officers patrolling for the police department. That number should be closer to 100, he said.
The other difficulty law enforcement faced during the operation was the use of social media between gang members to avert police activity.
Even in an ideal world with all of the right tools, officers said combating the problem starts with stable homes and community members holding each other accountable.
Much of the recruiting to local gangs is targeted at middle school students in Bessemer and Pueblo’s lower-east side, according to Taylor.
The department has started placing officers at the Patrick A. Lucero Library because it has become such a hotspot for gang recruiting.
It’s very low-key, Taylor said. Gang members aren’t flying colors.
“There’s a lot of subversive and just kind of very quiet peer pressure in trying to get those kids in positions where they have access to them so that they can try and recruit them,” Taylor said.
The reason the library has become a key place for recruitment, Taylor said, is because the library acts as a type of daycare for many families. A parent will drop their child off and leave them for extended periods of time throughout the day.
Currently, the police department is compiling data on gang members so that when they deal with activity. Jeremy Mathews with the Pueblo Police Department is leading that effort. He deals with gang members on a daily basis.
Local law enforcement agencies are also sending surveys to residents in high gang-activity areas.
Neighbors know their neighborhood better than anybody else, Taylor said. The Safe Streets Task Force has made the surveys possible.
So far this year, there have been 349 gang-involved police reports, Taylor said.
Out of 42 noted gangs in Pueblo, only eight to 10 of them are active, according to the agencies, with the Surenos, Nortenos, Crips and Bloods being the most active. There are also a few active motorcycle gangs in Pueblo.
In the jail, about 27 percent of inmates are associated with a gang, Taylor said.
The officers also noted the condition of the jail is deteriorating. On a scale of one to 10, Sheriff Department Sgt. Brian Martino told the attendees the concern the jail presents to officers is a 9.5.