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City working to reduce gang violence

5:45 PM, May 30, 2012   |    comments
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Two deadly shootings over the past three weeks may involve gangs, according to Denver Police officials.

Police arrested two men Monday in connection with a fatal shooting near 33rd Avenue and York Street. Two men were killed and two men were wounded Friday, just after 2 p.m.

"[There is] a good possibility that it has the overtone of some gang activity," Denver Police Chief Robert White told 9News Wednesday.

Earlier in May, four people were shot in two different locations in the Montbello neighborhood resulting in one death. The DPD gang unit investigated those shootings as well.

In response to the shootings, Terrance Roberts, with the Prodigal Son Initiative organized a recent meeting with a state senator, a councilman, community leaders and kids to all talk about gang violence.

Colorado State Senator Mike Johnston Johnston represents Denver's Park Hill neighborhood, where some of the suspected gang violence has occurred this year.

After the most recent shootings in Denver, "What does it take to take back some real presence in the neighborhood?" Johnston asked those in the room Tuesday.

"We are dealing with some serious violence right now," ex-gang member and Prodigal Son Initiative Founder Terrance Roberts said. "As you guys know, it ebbs and flows, and right now it's [flowing.]"

Those in the room talked about various ways to prevent violence from occurring like the summer of 1993. They advocated for more weekend barbeques and community basketball leagues and are still soliciting ideas.

"Can we start stepping up and being more visible, as men, in our community for these young guys?" Roberts said.

During the past four years, DPD statistics say gang crime has actually gone down. In 2008, Denver reported 778 unique gang-related/motivated incidence including murder, forcible sex offenses and assault. In 2011, statistics show 602 unique incidents. Yet, this year many of those in this room say there is a different feel.

"People are afraid, and I'm going to say this: People should be afraid," Roberts said.

The recent string of gang-related crime comes in the first six months of Denver Police Chief Robert White's tenure.

"I would say that Denver has a gang problem. Is it a problem of the gangs in New York, the gangs of L.A., the gangs of Chicago? No. But realistically, yes, we do have gangs," he said.

White pointed to Denver's Gang Reduction Initiative - or G.R.I.D. - as a way to Denver is trying to proactively reduce gang violence. G.R.I.D. is a Department of Justice funded initiative that works to bring together community partners to reduce gang violence.

"When you have a presence of gangs in your community, you're going to have activity such as shootings that go on," Denver's G.R.I.D. coordinator Paul Callanan said after the Montbello shootings earlier this month. "We have a team that's working actively right now that's trying to prevent any type of retaliation."

The G.R.I.D. program focuses its activities along the Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. corridor which include Northeast Park Hill, Cole, and the Elyria/Swansea neighborhoods and the Southwest Federal Blvd corridor, which includes Westwood neighborhood.

White says groups like G.R.I.D. and those that formed in Sen. Johnston's office Tuesday are necessary to keep the wrong groups from forming on the streets.

"I don't want people to think, 'yeah, we have gangs and that's the end of it,'" White said. "We are constantly working on issues as it relates to gangs."

(KUSA-TV © 2012 Multimedia Holdings Corporation)

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