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Gang Activity On Council Radar

As gang activity increases throughout the region, the Alexandria City Council asked for a report on what’s happening in the city.

Deputy Chief Earl Cook and Lt. Brett Hoover came to City Council on Tuesday night to make a report. “We have been very pro-active in dealing with any gang activity here in the city and we are having relatively few problems at this time,” Cook said. “As with the other jurisdictions around the region, summer could see an increase but our gang unit and our community police officers are on top of things.”

Since the beginning of 2004, there have been five gang-related incidents in the city. “Most of what we are seeing is gang on gang violence,” Hoover said. “We have one gang here in the city and they are relatively nonviolent. In many cases we are seeing gang members from other jurisdictions coming into Alexandria to assault gang members here. We are in regular communication with police throughout the region and coordinate with them.

“We believe that the reason we are seeing relatively little gang activity is because gang members know that if they are caught in

Alexandria there will be stiff penalties for the crime and we will use the new gang statutes, which increase the penalties for committing a crime as part of a gang,” he said. Only Alexandria and Arlington regularly use this statute.

HOOVER SAID THAT there is little activity in the schools. “Our school resource officers work closely with school principals to deal with any type of gang activity that might occur in a school,” Hoover said. “You are most likely to see recruiting at the middle schools but members of our gang unit are speaking to children in elementary school as well, just to make them aware of what gangs are and what gangs do. We are also educating parents about what to look for in determining whether children are involved in gang activity.

“We really haven’t seen any increase in graffiti,” Hoover said. “We work with the city staff and with business owners to remove any graffiti as soon as we observe it.”

Governor Mark Warner recently announced the formation of a new state police gang strike force. “My initiative provides our local law enforcement and community leaders with additional training, intelligence and resources to help stop these predators in their tracks,” Warner said. “We have multiple state and local representatives working together for the common purpose of eradicating gangs and their violence from

Virginia .”

The governor’s initiative has a four-pronged approach: enforcement, prosecution, training and prevention. Just how this will impact

Alexandria is not yet known.

“These things take time,” said Amy Bertsch, a spokesperson for the Alexandria Police Department. “We work closely with law enforcement throughout the region and will continue to do so.”