Calling it a “holistic” approach to fighting gangs, Houston Police Chief Harold Hurtt says cops have joined forces with a number of other local and federal agencies to form a multi-faceted gang crime task force. Houston Public Radio’s Jack Williams reports.
The initiative got it’s start at meeting last June between Chief Hurtt and FBI Director Robert Mueller. The chief mentioned that he could use some federal help in fighting Houston’s gang problem, not only with funding but with data and intelligence. As a result of that conversation, the FBI has assigned 10 agents to work specifically on the city’s gang problem, alongside agents from the ATF, DEA, DPS and Immigration and Customs.
“Today we are dealing with gangs not just on a local level or a statewide level, but on a national and internatoinal level. So we need the resources of not only state and locals, but we also need the resources and the talents and the intelligence that the federal agencies have.”
The initiative will be led by HPD, with input from all the agencies involved, including agents who will be assigned to investigate specific gangs in Houston and Harris County. Dan Parales is the assistant chief over HPD’s special investigations command.
“What’s unique about this initiative is the fact that we’ve formed task forces within the actual initiative that involve each one of these agencies and additional people from within HPD. They’re going to be part of a unit that is looking at a specific gang or gangs and then they’ll gather that intelligence and then will disseminate it within not only the initiative but to our other counterparts outside the Houston Police Department.”
Officials say they’ll target a variety of gangs, from common street gangs to larger sophisticated organizations involved in human and drug smuggling and even activities that could threaten national security. Special Agent in Charge of the Houston FBI Office Rod Beverly says agents will try to dismantle the gangs from the top down.
“Really to be effective in what we’re trying to do is we need to get out there and identify the heads of these organizations, particularly the gangs that are working out there, show them that there’s no safe haven here or anywhere else in the United States.”
In the first half of this year, there were 25 gang-related murders in Houston, up from 13 during the same period in 2005. HPD Captain Mike Graham will oversee the day-to-day operations of the initiative and says there’s power in numbers.
“Anytime you can add additional resources to the problem, it’s going to be a big help to us and it gives us the ability to look at more gangs than just the few that we were looking at. It gives us the ability to target more at one time.”
The gang initiative will continue for the next six months.