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Police to girls: Don’t join gangs

It’s a troubling trend, police say: girls and young women becoming more frequently involved in dangerous gang activity.

It happened again in March, when two female gang associates drove a gang member to a rival’s territory to tag. The gang member, 17, was confronted by rivals, then shot and killed by a bullet that entered the car, police said.

In a car seat with the female gang associates was a 3-year-old boy, said Sgt. Juan Reveles. The young women escaped without injury, and investigators have arrested two juvenile gang members who have been charged with murder.

Reveles shared the anecdote at the March Crime Analysis Problem Solving meeting and discussed how the department’s Gang Reduction and Intervention Partnership is focusing a part of its effort on working with schools to identify at-risk girls and preventing them from joining gangs. The new program is called Girls Club.

Girls and gangs aren’t the only new troubling trend on the agenda. Officers are reporting more crime involving early-release prisoners, and bolder suspects due to jail overcrowding. Suspects know they won’t serve a lot of time behind bars, police say.

One example involved a man arrested with ¾ ounces of methamphetamine and a gun who bailed out of jail. He was arrested a few days later with more drugs and another gun. Since January, police have stopped 11 gang members who were in possession of a gun, Reveles said.

And perhaps the most shocking new trend: police have arrested five burglars as young as 12 years old since January, Lt. Tim Miller said.

And these aren’t crimes of opportunity. “These kids are thinking and planning the burglaries. They are going through side and back doors and climbing through windows,” he said.

Also up for discussion: burglaries and auto thefts continue to rise in early 2013; There have been five homicides, three of which were gang related. Commercial robberies are up slightly, and overall violent crime is flat.

One of the big challenges police face in solving gang crime is uncooperative witnesses. Reveles shared the story of a two men who were shot in the leg with a third taking shrapnel in his shoulder. None would give information to detectives.

“If they aren’t cooperating, there really isn’t much we can do,” he said.

Also, Chief John Welter briefly discussed his upcoming retirement, noting that the department is in good hands. He congratulated Deputy Chief Raul Quezada on his leadership.

“The department is continuing and will continue to do a great job because of the people in this room,” he said.