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Fighting gangs is a team effort, congressman says

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Congressman Frank Wolf says success in reducing gang violence in Northern Virginia has been a team effort.

Wolf this week praised the Northern Virginia Gang Task Force for its work and said cooperation among local, state and federal law enforcement authorities and prosecutors has led to reductions in gang activity.

Now, he said, combating gang violence is a manageable goal.

"The local is working well with the state, who is working well with the feds. The cooperation is very good," Wolf told The Examiner on Wednesday.

The task force was created in 2003 with funding pushed through Congress by Wolf in response to gang violence increases in the region. It involves law enforcement authorities and civil service workers from Alexandria, Arlington, Fairfax, and Loudoun and Prince William counties.

Northern Virginia law enforcement officials said crime statistics for gangs are not kept, though they said they have observed decreases in gang activity.

But Virginia State Police crime records indicate a downward trend in serious offenses such as murder, assault, robbery, stolen cars and drugs. In Arlington, serious crimes decreased from 2,485 in 2003 to 2,390 in 2005. Fairfax saw the most dramatic drop, falling from 2,480 in 2003 to 1,713 in 2005. Loudoun County’s drop was less dramatic, with 1,989 in 2003 and 1,882 in 2005.

Alexandria crime statistics for 2005 were not available. But serious crime fell from 5,292 in 2003 to 4,431 in 2004.

In the area, only Prince William County saw an increase in serious crimes, with 5,012 in 2003 and 5,554 in 2005.

Wolf said the task force also works to educate on the dangers of gangs and intervenes when gang members want to leave gangs.

"You just cannot deal with this as a law enforcement issue," Wolf said.

Federal funding for the task force has increased from $520,000 in 2003 to $2.5 million this year. Wolf said he also has worked to get Virginia’s state government money to fight gang violence in other areas, and that the task force is sharing information and resources with a similar task force in the Shenandoah Valley.

How the Task force was formed

» Congressman Frank Wolf helped Virginia get $8 million in federal funding last year to fight gang violence.

» Task force intervention efforts include free removal of gang tattoos for members wishing to leave a gang.

dfrancis@dcexaminer.com

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