Target 2 Investigates: Taking the Gang 'Fight' to the Community - WBAY

Target 2 Investigates: Taking the Gang 'Fight' to the Community

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Green Bay police tell Action 2 News an incident on the city's east side Wednesday night that resulted in six arrests -- and charges against 3 -- was gang-related.

Police responded to a call that teenagers were outside a home on Stuart Street and one of them was waving a gun. Those teens surrounded another group of kids and threatened them with the gun.

When officers arrived, the teens ran into a house and hid two guns -- which turned out to be fake but realistic-looking (see images, right). Officers also found some marijuana paraphernalia.

A 17-year-old and two 15-year-old boys are being charged with armed robbery, resisting arrest and displaying a fake firearm.

This comes on the heels of our Target 2 investigation on gangs in the Green Bay area and the aggressive approach Green Bay police, along with state and federal agencies, are taking to eliminate the crimes associated with gangs.

Target 2 learned schools and community leaders are currently launching new efforts in response to this gang problem -- and the general public can help.

Green Bay's mayor tells Target 2 they are just now starting programs aimed at kids to either get them out or keep them out of gang life.

So many people hear the word "gang" and are instantly afraid, but police and these groups are pushing you to fight back and report what you see.

"It's like a dog, they've got to mark their spot. But with graffiti, it's very important that get removed immediately and that people call and that we're out there the next day, because that can become a bigger issue and that can become a much larger problem," Mayor Jim Schmitt said.

That problem is what Green Bay's 15-member Gang Identification Unit is working so hard to prevent.

A Green Bay police officer, who asked us not to use his full name for security reasons, gave us an inside look at the gang life he sees during a midnight patrol. He shows us some of the graffiti.

"You can see it really well on the side of this one, and there's some new stuff up over there I see."

Officer Mike tells us, "The overall vast majority of people, they are good, law-abiding citizens and try to do the right thing every day and they don't see this. They're not out here at night in these alleys, or at these fights, or in these homes to see that there's this issue here, but it definitely is here."

From graffiti to the hundreds of fights and weapons calls police have tied to just a single gang, he sees what gang crime is doing to this community.

Police are aggressively targeting the illegal activity caused by the more than 1,000 confirmed or suspected gang members they have now identified in the greater Green Bay area.


Online Resources

Parents and others looking for guidance to prevent or combat a gang problem in their family or community can find a lot of guidance online. Here are a few to get you started:

COPS (Community-Oriented Policing Services) gangs toolkit

National Gang Center resources

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's violence prevention: Prevent gang membership

But it's going to take more than their efforts on these streets at night.

"We're not going to let this become a problem in Green Bay, we're committed to it," Mayor Schmitt said.

The mayor tells Target 2 he's looking to add resources to the police department to help fight gangs and is applying for grants to help with funding.

"Yeah, the numbers are concerning," Schmitt said, "and we need to make sure we're on top of this and have the right informants and that we're taking care of it."

A big concern for the gang unit are what Mike calls the "wannabes" -- the kids who think it sounds cool to be part of a gang but don't really know what that means.

"They're the most unpredictable. They'll run, they might fight, they might pull a weapon, just because they have something to prove," Mike says.

Those are the kids city leaders and schools are targeting.

Next week, the mayor will hold his first meeting with a new advisory group of area ninth graders to start identifying ways the city can help kids who feel like they don't belong -- to give them a choice  other than gangs.

"I want to hear right from the kids, what's going to keep you on the right track," Schmitt said.

All this has to start at an early age, when children can be influenced by older siblings venturing into the gang life.

Target 2 investigated and found federal funding for the GREAT program -- gang education awareness for middle schools -- was cut a few years ago.

Green Bay's gang unit tells us it's working with the Green Bay Area Public School District to talk to students about gangs.

"We're actually having the gang task force officers come in to our schools occasionally and just talk to kids and build relationships with students and they will get information from faculty members that way, too," Director of Pupil Services Barb Dorff said.

Gang training is no longer only offered to top school administrators.

Teachers and staff are now requesting training on gang symbols and colors.

There's also a lot you can do, too.

"If people see activities going on in their neighborhoods or they know there's a problem house or they know there's this group of people hanging out and every night they're breaking bottles in the street or causing ruckus or just really affecting their life and their neighborhood, call us and let us know that," Mike says.

Police say don't let fear be a factor.

"These are punks," the mayor said. "here's nothing to be afraid of, and it will be anonymous on a call in, and if people don't want to call the police department then they should call me or call their aldermen and we'll make the call."

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