SLCPD to redefine ‘gang crime’

By Andreas Rivera, Staff Writer

Salt Lake City Police will be looking at gang crime a little bit differently from now on.

The police department has changed its definition of gang crime in hopes of streamlining how it deals with gang-related activity overall.

Before the change, SLC Police defined gang crimes by motivation. If a gang member assaulted a rival gang member, then it was considered gang-motivated and defined as a gang-related crime. This new definition change disregards motivation and defines a crime as a “gang crime” as long as the perpetrator is a gang member.

The new definition will not only change how the police department looks at gang activity statistically, but also how it will crack down on gangs. Moisés Próspero, a U professor of social work, is assisting the department by analyzing crime in the past three years through the view of the new definition. The department hopes to use that data, along with the incoming data, to redirect gang control efforts in areas that are high with what the department now considers to be gang activity.

This is called a “comprehensive gang model,” said Lt. Isaac Atencio, commander of the department’s gang unit. The model’s goal is to give a “clearer, accurate view of gangs.”

Prospero is looking for where gang activity is and what the gangs are doing. He’s also weighing other details that describe the gang, such as the average age of its members, their gender and how it’s organized. This will help determine what areas of the city gangs congregate in and what they’re doing8212;all to help police solve gang-related cases and prevent further gang crimes.

Right now the only crimes from the past three years being analyzed are homicide, robbery, aggravated assault and weapon assault.

This new definition will not change how a person is arrested and prosecuted, said Atencio.

“Some people are worried that crime statistics will go up,” he said. “Overall crime will not change, just gang crime statistics.”

The same crimes are being committed, but police officers will just be reporting them as gang-related.

Along with the definition change, gang intervention is being pushed by the mayor’s office. This intervention is aimed at all gang members, whether they are interested in joining or heavily involved in a gang. This service provides counseling and alternative activities.

In addition to assisting in the research, the Criminal Justice Center is working with organizations and the community.

“We’re asking what are they doing and what do they want to see,” Prospero said.

“Everyday gangs are recruiting new members, while at the same time we’re recruiting them away from gangs,” Atencio said.

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