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Agencies work together to curb gang activity

Date: 4/6/2009

By G. Michael Dobbs

Managing Editor

SPRINGFIELD Thursday afternoon a group of law enforcement officers and human service agencies began the first in a series of deployments to curb gang activity in Springfield. The targeted streets in Forest Park included Alderman, Ranney, Bloomfield and Vermont as well as Kensington Avenue, according to Sgt. John Delaney of the Springfield Police Department.

Although the public s attention on gang activity may have been aroused by the recent incident of two Latin King members attempting to recruit middle school students, Mayor Domenic Sarno said the recently announced anti-gang deployments were not the result of that activity at a Tuesday press conference.

Instead, the first in a series of anti-gang deployment has in been in the planning stages for weeks, he said.

The deployments are funded by $1.4 million in Shannon Grant monies the city received this fiscal year, Sarno said.

The deployments involve the District Attorney's Office, the State Police, the Hampden County Sheriff's Department, the Springfield Police Department as well as social service agencies including the YMCA, the Boys and Girls Club, the Martin Luther King Jr. Center, the Urban League and the Salvation Army, among others.

Sarno said the deployment has a two-fold mission aimed at young people: to underscore that the city will not tolerate gang violence and to prevent youths from becoming involved in gangs.

Along with the anti-gang activities, Sarno said the Police Ordinance Squad would be cracking down on illegal barbershops as part of the deployment, and buildings with graffiti would identified for cleaning.

Sarno said he believes through the partnership between law enforcement and social service agencies, the city "is moving in the right direction."

"We need to be tough to be fair," he added.