U.S. Rep. Frank Wolf (R-10) was joined by U.S. Rep. Tom Davis (R-11), town officials and members of the Northern Virginia Regional Gang Task Force Nov. 30 in the Herndon Municipal Center to discuss the most recent allocation of $2 million to help with anti-gang efforts.
As chairman of the gang task force, Herndon Police Chief Toussaint Summers, Jr. spoke about the task force's accomplishments over the past 18 months since its inception.
Regionally he said the group has conducted 618 gang-related arrests of which 400 have had led to felony charges, and there have been 1,287 suspects that the gang task force has monitored due to gang involvement.
He said the initial stages have focused on personnel training for the group, adding they have set up a three phase anti-gang progression.
"The three phases are suppression, prevention and intervention," said Summers at the press conference. "We worked on suppression the first year and we began the intervention in August [of this year.]"
Although he said it is hard to monitor success — because they have no existing baseline to compare it to — he said he is confident they have prevented some gang-related crimes and is excited to enter the next phase of the program.
"We will continue our efforts in suppression and prevention and use our next step of intervention," he said adding part of the intervention phase is educating the community about gang activity. "We know a lot about suppression, but not much about education ... we're going to step back and leave it to the experts."
WOLF CALLED the press conference to announce the Nov. 20 congressional approval of the omnibus spending plan where he asked that $2 million be included to support the task force.
In addition to allotting the $2 million, as chairman of the House appropriations subcommittee with jurisdiction over the Justice Department, earlier this summer Wolf asked that $3 million be given for statewide anti-gang efforts.
"More and more communities across the country are seeing an increase in gang activity and gang violence," Wolf said at the press conference. "Federal, state and local law enforcement officials throughout the country must have the resources and the ability to share knowledge and information."
At the local level, Summers said he communicates daily not only with other local law enforcement officials but also with John Marshall, Secretary of Public Safety for Gov. Mark Warner (R), officers at the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and federal officials on the task force regarding anti-gang efforts.
"The fact that all these resources are available makes it easier to tackle all of these issues," he said.
AS FAR AS the allocation of the $2 million, Wolf said it will be given to the task force as a whole to distribute at the local level to gang response prevention coordinators who will create programs to assist in the education phase of gang intervention.
"The local programs will be regionally approved and funded and evaluated by a regional committee," said Frank Shumaker, intake supervisor for the state's department of juvenile justice. "There are two steps: one we don't want to duplicate other things being done and two we need to address the specific needs of each area."
Shumaker, who has 20 years of experience with the state's judicial district court service unit, is one of the experts Summers has asked to help with the next phase of the anti-gang efforts.
"This is a regional issue," he said. "We always say gangs don't respect regional boundaries, so we have to look at all of the region."
In his speech before the task force Shumaker said the most important thing is the continuation of communication between state and federal law enforcement, but especially between local officers to make sure one county is not doing something that failed somewhere else.
"We'll be able to put more man power to the problem because we will not be competing — we're working together," said Summers about the importance of communication.
"From a Northern Virginia perspective, this is the place where the rubber hits the road," said Davis at the press conference. "You have other task forces that can add value, but they can also feed off of this."
IN ADDITION to assisting at the local level, Wolf said the omnibus spending plan also provides the FBI with $10 million to establish a national center to focus on anti-gang efforts.
That money will go toward the establishment of the center in Washington, D.C., the hiring of extra agents and analysts to deal with the national growing gang problem, as well as additional resources to be supplied to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms and the U.S. Attorney's offices.
At the local level he said this allocation comes at the right time with the most recent information from Fairfax County Police saying they believe there is a gang presence in every high school in the county.
"In terms of education, we're there, we're doing wonders in educating our community about what to look for," said Summers about the most recent work being done.
Shumaker agreed, saying the work he has been doing in Loudoun County with the establishment of after-school programs for at-risk youth and trying to identify potential gang members has been working so far.
"Because gang infiltration is new to the area we are ahead of the curve," he said about the rapidly expanding Loudoun County. "Once we identify a certain gang member ... then we can see who they hang out with ... if that person is not a gang member yet, we see that child as 'at risk' and through joint communication we can identify them faster and give them services."
During the press conference Summers said the next step is to work with Shumaker to expand the education portion of the intervention phase — much like the work done in Loudoun County — something he believes will be successful.
"Law enforcement in the community are excited about this program," said Summers. "This style [of enforcement] in Northern Virginia will be seen in other areas in the country and they will try to emulate that."