Technology to help target gangs

Federally funded task force to aid Md., others by linking databases, sharing information

January 26, 2008|By Madison Park | Madison Park,Sun reporter

Law enforcement agencies from six states and the District of Columbia will be able to share information on gang members, including nicknames, addresses, associates and even tattoos by linking crime databases as part of a $2.8 million federal program.

The funding will pay for new technology to link databases as part of a Gang Elimination Task Force. The databases will be used by federal, state and local authorities in Maryland, Delaware, West Virginia, Virginia, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and the District of Columbia, officials said yesterday.

The information about gang members will be tracked much as it is for terror suspects, officials said during a news conference at the Edgewood Community and Recreation Center, a few blocks from a series of shootings, some of which have been linked to gangs.

Harford County Sheriff L. Jesse Bane said he was initially concerned that the news conference was planned in Edgewood.

"The more I thought about it, why not have it here?" he said. "This is the best place in the world to announce that we're going to combat those who are most violent. We're putting those gang members on notice."

The task force will be based at the Maryland Coordination and Analysis Center in Baltimore, where the data will be examined. The program is expected to begin in late summer.

Rep. C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger, who made the announcement about the program, said the Gang Elimination Task Force and the Joint Terrorist Task Force will function in a similar way. The terrorist task force is a collaboration of federal agencies, such as the FBI, National Security Agency and Immigration and Customs Enforcement, working with state and local agencies to collect and analyze information about terrorists.

"I've worked with [the terrorist task force], and I believe that the same concept could work in respect to gangs," said Ruppersberger, who represents parts of Baltimore City and Anne Arundel, Baltimore and Harford counties. "This will be a comprehensive clearinghouse on information regarding gangs."

Capt. Charles Rapp, director of the Maryland Coordination and Analysis Center, said analysts will be able look across jurisdictions to get a broader picture of gang members and activity to "connect disparate information and make it beneficial to investigators" and others.

Officials said the gang task force is the first of its kind on the East Coast. A portion of the money for the program will go to gang-prevention education.

"This system will allow them to make a few arrests and pump their chests," Jansen Robinson, an Edgewood community activist, said after the news conference. "But if you arrest the top guy, the younger people will fill in. It becomes a cycle until we address those issues that make young people join gangs."

madison.park@baltsun.com

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