The Denver Police Department says that gang members committed 89 crimes out of the city’s total of 59,581 last year. Seventeen thousand gang members committed 89 crimes?, the Denver Post asks.
“I heard that figure, and I just wanted to laugh,” said Sgt. Vince Lombardi of the department’s gang crimes unit. Since the “Summer of Violence” a decade ago, when gang violence in Denver was deemed out of control, official records have drastically underrepresented the number of crimes that gang members commit, the Post says.
Official records suggest gangs have virtually vanished, while members of the department’s shrinking gang unit say gangs are thriving. The problems are caused by a system that does not require officers to go back and flag crimes they later learn are related to gangs.
As a result, the department cannot define the city’s gang problem with any certainty, and the gang crimes unit may lose federal aid.
For the last five years, an average of 50.4 murders were committed in Denver each year. The official record shows only an average of two of them were committed by gangsters. Yet homicide detectives blame gang members for 17 to 20 percent of the city’s murders.
The police chief blames the low number of recorded gang crimes on an outdated computer system, and defends the gang unit.