This week's cover story, "Flash Point," details Denver's response to what many perceive as a recent rise in gang violence. According to the most up-to-date statistics from the Denver Police Department, six murders were linked to gang activity between January and May of this year. That's up from five during the same period last year, and three each in 2010, 2009 and 2008. But what about other crimes?
DPD statistics show the number of gang-related crimes against people -- a broad category that includes murder, aggravated assault, kidnapping, intimidation and sex offenses -- is down overall. Between January 1 and May 31, there were 113 total crimes, down from 145 in 2011, 125 in 2010, 129 in 2009 and 174 in 2008.
More specifically, the number of aggravated assaults -- which includes non-fatal shootings -- has decreased. There were 75 between January and May. The stats from previous years are as follows: 103 in 2011, 93 in 2010, 91 in 2009 and 125 in 2008.
Chief Robert White pointed to those numbers at a community meeting called to discuss gang violence at the Blair-Caldwell Library in Five Points on June 20. Though overall gang crime is slightly down, he warned, "it's not something to where we can boast about it."
In fact, in the wake of several high-profile shootings, much of the community is concerned about gang violence. A month before that meeting, on May 25, four people were shot in broad daylight near the corner of East Bruce Randolph Avenue and York Street. Two of them -- 21-year-old Justin O'Donnell and 30-year-old Deon Rudd -- were pronounced dead at the scene. The police arrested two suspects and classified the murders as gang-related.
There have been several notable non-fatal shootings, as well. On May 17, an argument inside the Taco Bell on the 16th Street Mall ended when a juvenile shot a man in his thirties in the leg. The man lived, and a witness told the Denver Post that the two were from rival gangs and the altercation began with an eye roll. Five days later, a woman was shot in the wrist in an early-evening scuffle between gang members in Park Hill. And just last week, a non-fatal shooting in the Whittier neighborhood led to the arrest of a 26-year-old who the Post reports is a member of the Tre Tre Crips. That's the gang which which Willie Clark, the man convicted of murdering Broncos cornerback Darrent Williams, was associated.
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The police also keep track of gang-related property crimes and "crimes against society," which include weapons and drug charges. There were 59 gang-related drug violations between January and May this year, and 47 weapons violations. Last year, those numbers were 54 and 46 for the same five-month time period. Meanwhile, gang-related property crimes have been decreasing since 2008, when there were 157 between January and May. This year, there were 87 during that time; last year, there were 85.
At that June 20 meeting, White reassured the more than 100 attendees that "things are not on pace" to become another "Summer of Violence," referring to a time in 1993 when widespread concern about gangs led to new youth programs and tougher laws. But he didn't make light of the issue, either. He said the DPD studies crime patterns, and if officers notice crime increasing in a certain neighborhood, they also increase patrols.
"We try to put the bodies where the crimes are," Whtie said.
To see exactly where those spots are, check out the map below. It's on the second page of a document tracking gang-related crime that was provided to Westword by the DPD.
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