ROCKFORD (WIFR) – Rockford police are ramping up their efforts to put gang members behind bars. It seems like just about every week for the past few months we’ve told you about cops arresting another alleged gang member. Today we talked with police about the renewed push to get gang members and to a former gang member who says we need to do more to get gangbangers back on the right path.
“Everybody in my house was into gangs, was into drugs, going to prison, being violent. Growing up, I liked it.”
Faded tattoos are all that’s left of Roman Pavia’s gang days. He got in at just 13 years old and spent most of his teens and 20’s behind bars.
“I almost got killed quite a few times you know, and after that I just came to the realization that man, something’s gotta change here you know.”
Pavia’s family is what encouraged him to get out so they moved from California to Rockford and started new. Now he helps others find their way out.
“The problem is very real here, you know.”
Now, Rockford Police and the Winnebago County Sheriff’s Department have renewed efforts to put gang members behind bars. Deputy Chief Dave Hopkins says there have been at least 14 in the last month or so. Those arrests are important because Hopkins says even if we have nothing to do with gangs, we’re still affected by them.
“You just happen to be in the wrong place at the wrong time when some type of gang violence occurs,” said Hopkins.
Pavia says it’s going to take more than just arrests to change things. He says more programs like Ceasefire are needed.
“You need them now. You know that is a really big problem and I hope the few people that are working on those problems can hurry up and come up with a solution.”
Hopkins says most shootings involve gang members, but it’s usually hard to actually tie a gang to a specific crime because of lack of cooperation.