Syracuse (WSYR-TV) - Law enforcement officers put 11 alleged Syracuse gang members behind bars this week, but the sweeping arrest barely scratches the surface of a decades-old problem many may not even know exists.
The latest bust of the V-Not gang
is considered a success, but it leaves no time for the city’s Gang Task Force to rest.
Police say gangs are thriving in Syracuse – with 21 groups operating in city limits and more than 1,300 people participating in them.
Following the sixth major gang bust since 2003, Syracuse Police Chief Frank Fowler says crime statistics show it’s made a significant difference in the neighborhoods the gangs operate in, but he admits there are still people who live in gang areas because there are more of them. And they’re more violent towards each other thanks to an increasing flow of guns into Syracuse.
"Threatening of citizens in our neighborhoods…it's the destruction of the quality of life in our neighborhoods. That's the type of thing that's going to get our attention,” Fowler said.
The chief says Federal charges like the ones used to arrest members of the V-Not gang are one tool, but he says they can’t be used against minors, so police try to utilize state laws to keep younger members from filling in the voids left after older ones are arrested. Fowler says the arrests can’t be the only solution without making for a vicious cycle.
"There's a social component to this that we certainly have to address, it's the intervention and prevention phase of this,” Fowler said.
The chief says that, right now, the social component has not caught up to law enforcement efforts. It may be partly why he says there are 10 gangs in an area that's less than three square miles in the city of Syracuse.
The Bootcamp gang was the first Syracuse gang to face Federal RICO charges in 2003. The chief said that while they aren’t as much of a force, they are still a presence in the city. The chief cites the experience with Bootcamp as evidence that law enforcement alone is not enough to eliminate the gang problem.