Montgomery County developing new plans to address gang issue

ROCKVILLE, MD -- At a public safety committee meeting on Monday, Montgomery County law enforcement leaders laid out the gang issue facing the county and how they intend to tackle it.

"We got 18 dead people in the last two years. We got a rising gang problem," said Montgomery County State's Attorney John McCarthy. He added that half of the county's homicides since 2015 have been gang-related. "We just can’t wait until the bodies drop. We’ve got to get involved in these cases at the front end, not the back end, after the crime’s already been committed."

Montgomery County Police Chief Tom Manger added that while the number of gang-related crimes has not increased, there has been a change in the type of suspects committing the crime.

"The nature of the violence has increased and the age of the perpetrators has decreased," said Manger.

McCarthy said part of the reason for the increase in the violent nature is that the transnational gangs, like MS-13, are telling its U.S. affiliates to recruit more members.

"It’s a violent process of recruitment, of intimidation. And what happened is it has also raised the violence of the other gangs that are not MS," added McCarthy.

Manger said authorities need to get to the kids that gangs tend to target for recruitment, before

"Give them a better deal than the gangs give them. Give them something to do. Give them something to be a part of," added Manger. He said he is a developing a plan with the County Executive to ask the county for more resources to deal with the issue.

McCarthy said he is also developing a plan to request more resources and staff. Among the ways he would utilize them is to have them comb social media to build cases against known gang members.

"There is a treasure trove of information if we devote the intelligence resources to mining social media, particularly Facebook," added McCarthy.

Public Safety Committee chair and At-large Councilmember Marc Elrich said the county is switching from a reactive to proactive approach dealing with the issue and focusing on the higher ranking members.

"They’re going to have to go above somebody doing a small crime at the street level and actually focusing on leadership issues," said Elrich. He added the council will act very quickly to get the resources to the state’s attorney and police once they have a concrete proposal in hand.