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KFOX14 Investigates: Gang unit caseload doubles

KFOX14 Investigates: Gang unit caseload doubles

The number of gang-related cases in El Paso has more than doubled in a year. KFOX14 Investigates obtained data from the El Paso Police Department showing the gang unit’s caseload has seen a dramatic increase.

In total there have been 536 gang-related cases so far in 2017, compared with 256 cases at the same time in 2016.

Police say the drug trade is driving the increase in gang activity.

“This is where we sell, this is what we sell,” EPPD spokesperson Darrel Petry said. “In cases we’ve already seen, we believe they are narcotic ripoffs.”

Petry said at the end of 2016 the department identified a rise in gang activity, a trend seen throughout the country.

The departments solution was to add 10 officers and a sergeant to the gang unit to create a suppression unit.

“They are out there proactively looking and identifying new gangs, new gang members, gang activity,” Petry said.

That additional unit has lead to an increase in arrests. So far this year, the gang unit has made 463 arrests, a 400 percent increase from 2016.

And there’s been a change in gang dynamics.

“We are seeing a generational family influence on family members,” said Petry, who adds that includes grandparents, parents and children all in the same gang.

KFOX14 Investigates obtained the raw data fro the types of crimes being committed.

As of October, there were 66 aggravated assaults, 18 assaults and one murder. All increases from September 2016. Burglaries are down from 2016 but graffiti is up by 40 cases.

“We are seeing graffiti has taken a huge surge,” Petry said.

There's also been a rise in retaliation, which includes threats and harassment.

Another 223 cases fall into the "other" category; which is dramatically up from just 43 in 2016.

The department said these cases don't fall into a specific offense; but do require officers and investigators time.

Police said while they've seen some new gangs try to come into El Paso, none have taken a strong foothold.

“When we do see a new gang come into El Paso, we definitely do take a good hard look at them,” Petrysaid.

Even with the increase in gang cases, “They make up a very, very small percentage of the total crime of El Paso,” Petry said.

In terms of where it’s happening, police said it affects the entire city.

The department has reactivated its gang tip line:

915-212-GANG (4264).

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