Fairfax Creates Anti-Gang Panel
Group Among Several Tackling Problem
By David Cho and Lisa Rein
Washington Post Staff Writers
Tuesday, July 13, 2004; Page B04
The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors established a gang prevention council yesterday -- the fifth group to take aim at one of the region's fastest-growing public safety threats.
The council will join two state-funded anti-gang groups, a Northern Virginia task force and the county police department's 11-member gang unit in combating what Board Chairman Gerald E. Connolly (D) described as the "one cloud on the horizon" in Fairfax.
In addition, Rep. Frank R. Wolf (R-Va.) has secured $10 million for a national gang intelligence center that was approved by the House on Thursday. The Senate has yet to schedule a vote on the measure, although it is not expected to be opposed, an aide to Wolf said.
Not to be left out, the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments is planning an "anti-gang summit" in Arlington County in the fall for officials from the area.
Several local and federal officials said the surge of task forces and government spending is justified. In fact, Wolf said, "the more people working on the problem, the better, as long as there is coordination."
The Fairfax council will have a budget of $200,000 and focus on educating and providing programs for vulnerable youths, county officials said.
The steering committee will include school officials, police, human service workers and neighborhood groups.
Some of the council's recommendations could be simple to implement. Connolly, for instance, pointed to the lack of after-school activities in county middle schools, which can put teenagers at greater risk of joining a gang.
"This isn't only a law enforcement issue," Connolly said.
The Northern Virginia Regional Task Force, created last year with more than $2 million in federal funds secured by Wolf, also has at least $280,000 budgeted for providing after-school activities and similar gang prevention efforts. Wolf said he is confident the two organizations will coordinate their efforts.
Besides those groups, Virginia Attorney General Jerry W. Kilgore (R) created a gang task force last year that focused on passing tougher penalties for those convicted of gang-related crimes. Gov. Mark R. Warner (D) created a gang "strike force" made up of 12 Virginia state police troopers to aid local authorities.
The intense activity illustrates the heightened awareness of Northern Virginia's growing gang problem, several officials said.
In May, the hands of a 16-year-old youth, who police say was a member of a gang called the Southside Locos, were nearly severed with a machete. Police charged Hayner R. Flores, 18, allegedly a member of a rival gang, MS-13, or Mara Salvatrucha, in the attack.
Days after the machete attack, a 17-year-old Herndon youth was shot to death by an assailant on a bicycle who had "MS" tattooed on his forehead, police said. The victim may have been a member of a rival gang called 18th Street.
Fairfax County investigators also are trying to determine whether MS-13 members are responsible for a 3 a.m. shooting Saturday in which a 24-year-old Kingstowne man was shot in the back. A 23-year-old Lincolnia woman was wounded in the attack when a bullet grazed her leg. They were treated at Inova Fairfax Hospital and released, police said.
Since 2000, MS-13 members have been linked to at least six slayings in Northern Virginia as well as beatings, rapes and robberies.
Staff writer Maria Glod contributed to this report.
© 2004 The Washington Post Company