The San Antonio Police Department is asking for community involvement in an effort to crack down on gang activity.
“You’ll hear from (William) McManus on several occasions (saying) that you cannot arrest the problem away,” said Officer Doug Greene, a spokesperson for SAPD.
According to Greene, gang activity is happening in every part of the city and it’s coming in waves.
“We see it that a couple of months, it is quiet and then one incident will happen,” he said. "It will set off a series of other incidents and then it will get quiet again, so it is very inconsistent.”
The latest wave of gang offenses has involved three different shootings that happened on the East Side. One of those shootings resulted in the death of Sebastian Montez, 16, and Corey Byrd, 20.
Police have confirmed that those shootings are related to each other.
"These have all been personal disputes between these individuals and people saying things about each other, disrespecting one another, and then those individuals end up taking it to another level,” said Greene.
The biggest obstacle police face in solving these crimes is getting citizens to cooperate with the investigation.
"You have people who are involved in this who won’t talk because they are a part of the criminal element,” Greene said. "Or there are some people who are in fear of retaliation.”
SAPD is starting to see more teenagers, along with people in their early 20s, getting caught up in gang activities.
The three biggest areas of gang-related arrests, according to Greene, are robberies, burglaries and drug activities.
“There are various kinds of crimes gangs get involved in,” he said. "You also have shootings in progress, aggravated and regular assaults, family disturbances, human trafficking and prostitution.”
According to Greene, to combat the issue, police work closely with nonprofits, including Southside Neighbors Against Crimes, Ghost Town Survivors and other organizations.
Police also have a series of community-engaged departments, including their Street Crimes Unit, which Greene says plays a crucial role in keeping violence out of neighborhoods.
“What many people don’t know about us is that not only do we assist the victims affected in these cases but also the suspect,” he said. "We see what family the suspect belongs to, who is their circle of influence and how can we get in there and help them help these suspects choose a better life.”
Greene said he would love to see people living in these neighborhoods stepping up and making a difference, as well.
“We want people who live in that area to start communicating with these folks and let them realize that this activity that they're engaging in is very dangerous, and it's putting innocent people's lives at stake,” Greene said. “If people are watching this and they are upset and they are saying that someone should do something, that somebody may be you. What we are finding is that the majority of these victims and suspects are young people. They are teenagers and in their early 20s, so we see that a lot of our kids in this community need mentors.”
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