Congress has approved $48.6 million in anti-gang initiatives, including new funds for law enforcement task forces in Virginia and a national gang intelligence center to be run by the FBI, lawmakers announced yesterday.
About $2 million would go to the Northern Virginia Regional Gang Task Force, and $587,000 would help law enforcement officials fighting gangs in the Shenandoah Valley. The state also would receive $3 million to coordinate its many anti-gang task forces.
Virginia Republican Reps. Thomas M. Davis III, left, and Frank R. Wolf attend the news conference.
(Juana Arias -- The Washington Post)
Included in the $48.6 million in anti-gang initiatives approved by Congress is:
$25 million for the Justice Department's juvenile justice program, which would provide grants to states and localities for gang-related prevention activities, such as after-school programs.
$5 million for the first-year salaries of about 25 additional gang investigators within the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.
$3 million to U.S. attorney's offices for about 32 new gang prosecutors and support staff.
_____From The Post_____
2nd Gang Member Gets 15 Years in Fairfax Machete Attack (The Washington Post, Nov 20, 2004)
Loudoun Sheriff's Office Holds Forum on Gang Awareness (The Washington Post, Nov 14, 2004)
Witness Describes Gang Slaying (The Washington Post, Nov 11, 2004)
Md. Gangs Ready to Leave Strife Behind (The Washington Post, Nov 1, 2004)
Taking Anti-Gang Effort to Community (The Washington Post, Oct 31, 2004)
The FBI center, which will cost $10 million, could add as many as 80 agents and analysts to the agency and would act as a national clearinghouse for gang activity. Once it is operational, police in Virginia, for instance, could more easily obtain background information on known gang members who have moved to the area from Los Angeles or El Salvador.
The funds were secured by Rep. Frank R. Wolf (R-Va.), chairman of the congressional committee that oversees funding for Department of Justice programs, and were passed by Congress in its 2005 spending plan. The bill is awaiting the president's approval.
Wolf said gangs are more aggressively recruiting in Virginia's prisons and schools. Fairfax County police now believe there is a gang presence in every high school in the county, he said.
"That is frightening. We have to do everything we can to rid our communities of this plague," he said at a news conference at the Herndon Municipal Center. "These gangs are extremely violent, and they are recruiting children in our high schools, middle schools and even elementary schools."
Rep. Thomas M. Davis III (R-Va.), also at the news conference, urged area officials to think regionally when it comes to gangs.
"This is not a jurisdictional issue," he said. "These gangs move with impunity across jurisdictional lines. . . . We need to solve this [issue] before it gets out of hand."
Leaders of the Northern Virginia Regional Gang Task Force said they plan to use $500,000 of their $2 million to fund three anti-gang coordinators in the city of Alexandria, as well as Arlington and Prince William counties. Loudoun and Fairfax counties already have those personnel.
Together, the five coordinators will be responsible for establishing anti-gang programs, such as tattoo removal programs and after-school activities, and will meet regularly to share ideas, said David Carver, Loudoun's gang coordinator.
Herndon Police Chief Toussaint Summers said the effort could "prevent jurisdictions from competing for the same funds."
He added that he hopes that the regional task force could help every middle school in Northern Virginia establish after-school activities so students have something to do after school rather than become prey for gang recruiters.