Police, community members say gang violence is preventable

Police say a recent surge in gun violence could be tied to gangs, but intervening early can help stop the trend.
Published: Aug. 25, 2020 at 7:47 PM CDT
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MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) - Madison has seen weeks of record gun violence this summer. In July, police reported 44 shots fired calls.

Some in the community have worried the trend is tied to gang activity. Madison Police and community members said it is possible, but can also be preventable.

“I think we’re kind of going backwards here,” said Officer Lester Moore with the Madison Police Department’s Gang Unit.

Moore has worked with gangs for 16 years, and he said many people involved in recent gun violence likely have ties to gangs.

“I see more violence now. I see more violence by younger people than I’ve ever seen,” Moore explained.

Moore said city leaders and law enforcement have missed opportunities to intervene early and steer kids in a different direction.

In 2005, the Dane County Youth Gang Prevention Task Force came up with recommendations, but Moore said few were implemented.

“Now the kids that are stealing cars, that are involved in a lot of this violent activity were kids then, and we had an opportunity,” he said, adding, “We have to deal with, you know, systemic racism, things like that, that’s an issue as well, when we get serious about dealing with that and paying for that on the front end, but right now we’re just paying it on the back end with through incarceration.”

Moore also said Madison’s Gang Unit is stretched thin after budget cuts, COVID-19 and recent looting and damage downtown.

“Some of our positions for the gang unit were cut so we lost at least two bodies, so we can’t we can’t be as effective as we were,” Moore explained.

Some community members echo Moore’s goal of stepping in early.

“You [have to] catch them before the fall,” said Clyde Mayberry, co-founder of the Black Leadership Action Coalition.

Mayberry helped start the coalition in April to bring together black leaders, community members and grassroots organizations.

“We should be able to have conversations among one another,” he said.

Mayberry said he can relate to young people because of his own experience growing up.

“My father was a Gangster Disciple from Chicago, Illinois,” Mayberry said, adding, “I know what a gang member looks like.”

However, he said he does not think all the young people involved in recent violence are involved in gangs.

“These are not people that are organized because gang members are very organized and very intentional,” Mayberry explained.

Mayberry said he thinks Black community members and organizations can work with law enforcement to support kids, even after something happens.

“Yes they’re locked up in a cell, open that door and let me get in there and talk to them,” he said.

Both Moore and Mayberry agree, preventing gang violence will take more investment in the community.

“Support more organizations that work directly with these youth, we can make an impact,” Mayberry explained.

Moore added he too wants to see organizations that work with young people get more funding from city leaders.

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