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KC police double size of anti-gang squad

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The Kansas City Police Department has doubled the size of its squad that deals with gangs in an effort to combat violent crime and deny gangs bigger footholds.

Police Chief Darryl Forte, who took office in October, said this week that the squad will now have two sergeants and 12 detectives. The city has about 3,000 documented gang members, The Kansas City Star reported Tuesday (http://bit.ly/sefpEc ).

Sgt. Jay Pruetting has led the squad for 12 years, and has said he and six detectives weren’t enough. He said that with more investigators, squad members also will be able to work more closely with residents.

“A problem would flare up in East Patrol with gangs, but then another problem would come up in Metro and we’d have to shift our resources,” he said. “We couldn’t stick with one problem very long because something else always came up and drew our attention away.”

He said Kansas City has about three dozen or more active gangs and that most of the gangs have neighborhood affiliations and are very loosely organized. Feuds among members within the same gang — some resulting in homicides — are not uncommon, he said.

A popular crime among gang members is robbing drug houses. Gangs are known to occupy certain areas, but they don’t typically act very territorial unless competing drug dealers move in, Pruetting said.

Because gangs, drug-dealing and violence are so intertwined, gang squad detectives often use drug arrests to get violent offenders off the streets.

The new gang squad supervisor joining Pruetting is Sgt. Brad Lemon, who started a task force to combat property crimes. He said the task force reduced property crimes more than 20 percent in the past three years.

“We want to continue to disrupt and disorient gang members so they can’t get a foothold and create a business empire like they have in some other cities,” Lemon said.

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Information from: The Kansas City Star, http://www.kcstar.com

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