Crackdown on Gangs in Belvidere

BELVIDERE (WIFR) -- Boone County has a strong message for gang members: Stay out. According to officers, they are.

"Gangs know that we're going to be tough and they better think twice about coming here," Boone County State’s Attorney Michelle Courier, said.

Boone County is taking a no-nonsense approach to gangs.

"You have to be very, very aggressive so they don't set up shop here," Belvidere Police Department Deputy Chief Dave Ernest, said.

Belvidere Police say their tactics are working. Crime has dropped 32 percent since 2009.

"Our criminal damage, our vandalism, our gang activity really decreased after that lawsuit went through," Ernest said.

That lawsuit is against the Latin Kings. It says gang members can't have any contact with each other while out in public. About half a dozen have gone to jail for violating the lawsuit, but Courier says it's also had another effect.

"They understand that we're going to be watching them and if they commit crimes or if we can have those orders we're going to make it very difficult to be here in Boone County," she said.

The police department isn't making it easy for them either. The 12 member gang unit constantly patrols the city. During a seven month operation last year, the unit made 35 arrests. Officers say many gang members are leaving the city, heading east to McHenry County.

"When they know the police are aggressive and when they know the state's attorney is going to prosecute and they're going to go to prison, why wouldn't they go to a different community," Ernest said.

Belvidere native Garrett Carlson says he's noticed the hard-liner stance law enforcement is taking with gangs and says he's also noticed more community involvement.

"I think there's been a bigger emphasis put on looking out for, looking out for gang violence," Carlson said.

Officers say that community input is the most important part of the equation.

"If you have a community that actually buys into the program and knows that their calls are going to be answered, they're going to call and it’s going to make your community so much safer," Ernest said.

Members of the Latin Kings who violate that lawsuit face up to 180 days in jail.

BELVIDERE (WIFR) – Crime is dropping in Belvidere and local law enforcement says it’s thanks to a tough crackdown on gangs.

The law enforcement agencies are telling gang members if you’re going to be involved in criminal activity, you’re not welcome here.

It all started about three years ago when the Boone County State’s Attorney filed a lawsuit against 30 members of the Latin Kings Gang. It allows police to arrest any of those gang members if they’re seen in public with other gang members. The police department also has its own dedicated gang unit of 12 officers that are constantly on the lookout for gangs. Police and citizens say the hard line stance against gangs seems to be working.

“The lawsuit obviously had a big impact as far as we were concerned. Our criminal damage, our vandalism, our gang activity really decreased after that lawsuit went through, “ said Department Chief Dave Ernest.

“There’s a bigger emphasis put on looking out for gang violence and whatnot over the last few years. Just the awareness of it being out there I think has cut down on it a little bit,” said Belvidere native, Garrett Carlson.

The proof is in the numbers. Property damage and vandalism claims dropped since the lawsuit took effect and last year in seven months the gang unit made 35 arrests and ticketed more than 50 others.

State’s attorney Michelle Courier says about half a dozen have violated that court order, which means a 180 day stay in jail.

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