If you’re like me, you’ve probably done something like this before. We read a bold headline in the news or we see a flashy statistic on social media, and then we allow our imagination to start filling in the blanks before we take the time to get an understanding of the facts. But, there is often much more to the story.
I think this happened recently. A story in the Longview News Journal, referencing statements from one of our police officers, said that there were 42 gangs in Longview. As you could imagine, that started quite a bit of a social media frenzy. 42 gangs in Longview? Really? Well, not exactly. Let me explain for just a moment.
First, in reality, there are only a small number of individuals, maybe around 30 or so, that we believe are actively participating in a just a handful of loosely organized gangs. So, why were 42 gangs mentioned? State statute allows for law enforcement to track and identify gang members. The Longview Police Department monitors and tracks possible gang activity and its members in order to be vigilant for our community, and as a tool to help deter crime. That database currently shows 274 individuals representing 42 different groups, but the full story is that a majority of those gangs are either not active in Longview, may only have one member in Longview, or those members were only loosely associated.
Secondly, I believe we are making progress. I would prefer that we have no gangs, but the good news is that the number of gangs, the number of active gang members, and the amount of gang activity appears to be decreasing. Of those 274 members in our database, 100 of them are currently in prison or are in jail awaiting trial. We have made significant progress working with regional, state, and federal resources to arrest and charge individuals, and we will continue to do so.
Third, the gang activity that we see in Longview is generally not highly organized. It is not like the gang activity you would see in bigger cities. Although we have in recent years had issues with gang-on-gang violence, most of the activity we are currently seeing is very loosely organized, often involves a small group of young people, and has been related to drugs, property crime, and criminal mischief. So, are there 42 active gangs in Longview? No, I don’t think so. But, I do think there is still more to be done. It is still very important that we do everything that we can to eliminate this type of criminal behavior.
You can help by reporting any suspicious or criminal behavior to the police. You can get involved in activities that provide young people with positive role models. Get to know your neighbors and get involved in a neighborhood crime watch group.
Working together as a community, we can continue to make Longview a safe and wonderful place to live. Thank you for your support for the Longview Police Department.