Task force aims to combat gangs

Police, prosecutors partner to deter activity in county

July 21, 2006|BY A SUN STAFF WRITER

Police and prosecutors in Anne Arundel County are expected to announce today the creation of a task force to combat gang activity in Annapolis and the county.

Officials say that the task force, Gang Related Investigations and Prosecutions, formalizes efforts to work together to deter and prevent gang activity, to curb their growth, and to prosecute members for gang-related crimes. Formed as a result of a conference last month in Baltimore on coordinated law enforcement approaches to gangs, it also will work with federal authorities.

The broad fear is that large, highly organized, violent gangs that exist elsewhere in Maryland could look to move into the area. Among those is the Hispanic gang MS-13, whose members have been linked to rapes and killings in the Washington region, among other crimes. The Hispanic population in Anne Arundel County is small but growing in Annapolis and the Glen Burnie area.

"The police do not believe there is any credible gang activity in the county - yet," said State's Attorney Frank R. Weathersbee, a Democrat seeking re-election this fall. "We are trying to stay ahead of the curve. There is no reason to believe they will not try to migrate here. We want to be ready to prosecute."

Two prosecutors are part of the task force, which includes officers from the Annapolis and Anne Arundel County police departments, and they are expected to meet regularly, he said.

Anne Arundel County Police Lt. David Waltemeyer characterized the illegal activities of loosely affiliated neighborhood gangs as vandalism and assaults, generally on each other.

Identified groups have included "C-Town," a Crofton group believed responsible for vandalism and assaults, and the Pioneer City Boys, a violent drug-dealing operation that was the subject of arrests last year.

Another was the Crips, a former Glen Burnie-area gang not affiliated with the West Coast group the Crips. Several of the Glen Burnie group's members were convicted in connection with the 2001 slaying of a member. Waltemeyer said Glen Burnie group got the name wrong in a member's tattoo, spelling it "Cripes."

No gangs have been identified in the more rural southern area of the county, he said.

Police are not reassigning officers for the task force. One officer in each of the four districts is trained in gang recognition and is funneling information to the intelligence unit, which gathers gang-related information, he said.

Weathersbee's Republican opponent in the November general election, lawyer David W. Fischer, said of the task force, "He is copying my idea, an idea which should have been implemented by his office three years ago."

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