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UPDATE POSTED WEDNESDAY, FEB. 1: The City of Danville’s newly formed gang task force held its first meeting Wednesday afternoon at the Municipal Building.
City Manager Ken Larking led the meeting, which was attended by 22 representatives from the Police Department, Commonwealth Attorney’s Office, Sheriff’s Office, W.W. Moore Jr. Juvenile Detention Home, Probation and Parole Office, Adult Detention and Public Schools.
“It was evident in our first meeting that these departments and agencies have undertaken a number of steps to address the growth and activity of gangs,” Larking said following the meeting. “With this task force, we have an opportunity to work together and take our efforts to the next level.
“We want everyone to be on the same page, to better communicate what they are doing, and to share information with one another about which strategies are working and which efforts are not working.”
Larking also said the task force, which will meet monthly, would research best practices used by other communities and recommended by state and federal agencies.
“We will review these practices and determine if they offer a path for us to pursue,” Larking said. “We want to be strategic as a group in how we solve this issue.”
A youth task force also has been established and soon will begin to meet to develop strategies for keeping kids from getting involved in gang activity. This task force is composed of agencies that serve local youth.
Reducing violent crime was one of three focus areas that City Council established during a retreat held in late October. The other areas were education and “grow Danville.” Since the retreat, Larking has been meeting with department heads and staff to develop short-term and long-term strategies in each of the areas.
In early December, Larking and Broadfoot outlined nearly 30 short-term and long-term strategies to reduce violent crime in Danville. The short-term strategies included establishing a gang task force and expanding beyond the Green Street precinct to develop a fixed presence in at least two at-risk neighborhoods.
The long-term strategies included, for example, community wealth-building efforts to reduce poverty, developing community-based programs to bring structured activities to children in their neighborhoods, and continued property blight eradication.
The city experienced a record 16 homicides in 2016. In comparison, the city had a record low of three homicides in 2014.
While homicides spiked in 2016, preliminary numbers show a decrease in other crimes, including arson, assaults, robbery, burglary, larceny, destruction/vandalism, drug/narcotics, kidnapping/abduction, motor vehicle theft and stolen property offenses.
ORIGINAL STORY POSTED TUESDAY, JAN 31.
Gang task force to hold initial meeting this week
The City of Danville announced today the formation of a gang task force has been completed and the task force will begin meeting this week to share information, implement strategies and coordinate efforts designed to curb the growth and activity of gangs.
The task force is one of nearly 30 short-term and long-term strategies to reduce violent crime as outlined last month to City Council.
“These initial members of the task force are professionals in the criminal justice system that deal with gang members almost on a daily basis,” City Manager Ken Larking said today. "They will meet on a regular basis to collaborate and discuss strategies on how to most effectively prevent and respond to criminal activity."
The task force is made up of representatives from the Police Department, Commonwealth Attorney’s Office, Sheriff’s Office, W.W. Moore Jr. Juvenile Detention Home, Probation and Parole Office, Adult Detention and Public Schools.
In addition to the formation of a gang task force, Danville Police have been serving search warrants on individuals known to be gang members. Police Chief Philip Broadfoot said these warrants have led to the recovery of firearms and ammunition, as well as gang evidence.
“This focus has been very successful in suppressing gang activity,” Broadfoot said. “We hope to continue that in the next several months.”
The Police Department also has stepped up patrols in at-risk areas. In north Danville, Police will develop a fixed presence by establishing a precinct. A vacant building near the Third Avenue Fire Station is being renovated for use as a precinct.
“We will use this as a base of operations to work in that neighborhood,” Broadfoot said. “Our Green Street precinct has served as an established base of operation for a number of years and worked very well. We hope to do that with the Third Avenue precinct.”
Larking noted that other departments also will play a role in reducing criminal activity. For example, the Parks and Recreation Department is reallocating resources to provide more opportunities for youth activities. These programs will start in the near future.
“We went from a record low to a record high in two years,” Broadfoot told City Council. “The question that has to be asked is ‘why.’ Murders come in cycles. We believe these cycles are generational. Sometimes you have a generation that is more prone to violent crime. …. The cycle that we are in now is being driven by younger offenders with gang affiliations, using social media, and with easy access to firearms.”
Broadfoot also said, “Most of our violent crime takes place between people who knew each other. An aggravated assault takes place between neighbors and family members. Most of the murders, if not all of them, take place between people who knew each other. A good number of robberies take place between people who know each other. That creates an atmosphere for violent crime.”