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Gang Violence Affecting Innocents

Gang Violence Affecting Innocents

Posted - Apr. 2, 2004 at 3:56 p.m.



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Debbie Dujanovic ReportingLocal law enforcement is just wrapping up their annual gang conference in Sandy. Eight hundred officers are attending this year’s Salt Lake Gang Conference. One of the concerns here is that gang rules are changing.

Innocent citizens caught in the crossfire; it's a trend out of L.A. and they say it's moving east. Here's an example: A California man recently using a payphone was shot dead by three gang members because they wanted to make a phone call.

Gang members shot it out at the old Family Fun Dome in Murray last fall. Bullets fly -- bystanders are hurt. Detectives say it's proof the frightening L.A. trend is spreading.

Lt. Andy Burton, Salt Lake Metro Gang Unit: "That kind of callus disregard for human life is what we're starting to see in some cases."

Violence against the innocent is escalating nationwide and locally.

Sgt. Jason Johnson, Salt Lake Metro Gang Unit: "If somebody gets in their way, they have no problem shooting that person or assaulting that person. It's a trend we've been concerned about and we're watching."

Detectives aren't sure exactly what's driving the trend, but one former California gang member offers insight.

Former Gang Member: "When you have these California gangs moving into other states, they bring with it their way of thinking--that violence solves everything."

We've hidden his identity because he's a witness in a federal case. He's authored a book he sells to law enforcement about the inner workings of gangs. He says this trend of random violence needs to be a police priority.

Former Gang Member: "There's been many many incidents documented where people were hurt because they liked a certain football team, wearing a certain jersey, for wearing that color."

To protect yourself, officers say it's best to avoid confrontation. Be aware, but recognize that statistically your chances of becoming a victim are pretty low.

Detectives say locally there are now 33 officers on the Metro Gang Unit, more than ever before. That makes thirty-three officers to deal with the 4,000 known gang members in the Salt Lake Valley.

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