Gang Task Force ready for new year

ALBANY -- The 2011 accomplishments of the Albany Police Department Gang Unit will pave the way for a strong fight against gang crime in 2012, according to officials Thursday.

The Gang Task Force and Violence Prevention meeting at the Government Center outlined a list of accomplishments and upcoming strategies in the war against gangs.

"More than 200 weapons have been removed from the streets of Albany," said Gang Unit Investigator Jean Cassesus. "They range from 9 millimeters to submachine guns."

Thanks to last summer's get tough sweep that entailed using organized crime statutes against leaders of the Crips gang, Cassesus was able to say, "The Crips are dying. The gang has finally said 'We are moving on.' I hate to say it but they might move into the county."

According to Cassesus, in 2011 three men wanted for murder in other counties have been arrested in Albany. Fugitives from New York City, Panama City, Fla., and other cities thought Albany was a good place to hide.

They were caught and sent back to face justice, Cassesus said. Albany can no longer be looked at as a place to hide, he added.

"We are more aggressive than in the past," Cassesus said. "We are going after them. But we need the community to call and report gang activity."

Cassesus said that the coming year will see more officers on the street, known gang areas tagged and hit with raids, new technology that can track gang members placed in service and ties with other law enforcement agencies including federal agencies would be continued and strengthened.

But police can't do everything themselves, Cassesus said. The police will make an even greater effort to win the trust of the community as a partner in the fight against crime.

That rang a bell with meeting chairman Albany City Commissioner Jon Howard and Mayor Dorothy Hubbard.

Hubbard said, "Just how do you plan to win the trust of the community?"

Cassesus and Deputy Chief Nathaniel Clark stood to the challenge. They said that it would take a lot of over and beyond crime fighting efforts from officers.

Community meetings at the Law Enforcement Center on the 100 block of West Oglethorpe would continue to put officers and community together. Other outreach opportunities include meeting with church groups, neighborhood watch groups and at schools.

"We still have challenges. We take a step a gang takes two more," Clark said. "We try to stay ahead of them. I think that if we respond quickly and professionally to an involved community we will build trust."