Lehigh to create a gang database

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Lehigh to create a gang database

Unread post by alexalonso » January 31st, 2011, 4:26 am

Lehigh seeks to track gang members
Countywide database called crucial to fighting their crime.
January 09, 2011|By Kevin Amerman, OF THE MORNING CALL

Lehigh County wants to construct a place for all gang members whether they're Bloods, Crips, Latin Kings or Trinitarios.

Not a physical location, but a place in cyberspace where authorities throughout the county can store information on gang members — such as where they live, what gang they're associated with and crimes they have been charged with. It could help authorities determine where certain gangs are generally located and if their crimes tend to occur in specific areas.

It's the first time such a database is being proposed in the county.
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Tracking gang members is crucial to tackling gang violence and knowing if efforts to combat gang crime are effective, according to Bill Chalfant, president of the Pennsylvania chapter of the East Coast Gang Investigators Association.

"I agree with him," said Lehigh County District Attorney Jim Martin, who recently announced the plan. "Some would argue we're late to the game."

Martin said police and Lehigh County Prison officials already have been gathering information on gang members, but the goal is to place it in a searchable database.

"The driving force behind it is in order to combat the gang problem, police need intelligence," Martin said. "If we can identify who these people are and where they're concentrated, we can do a lot of things. We can increase patrols in those areas, for one thing."

Martin said knowing who gang members are could also help solve crimes.

"A lot of street violence is associated with gang membership, so if we find a dead body in the street and ascertain the person's ID and find out he's a Latin King, at least that leads us in a certain direction," Martin said. "The likelihood is he's dead because he's a gang member."

Chalfant helped set up a gang database about 18 months ago in Lancaster County, where's he's a detective. He said he's not aware of any other counties that use countywide gang databases, although he believes some have obtained computer programs that would support them.

In Northampton County, prison officials keep track of inmates who are gang affiliated and the gang unit in the the's office has files regarding known gang members, but there's no countywide database like the one Lehigh is proposing, according to Northampton District Attorney John Morganelli. The prosecutor noted that the Bethlehem and Easton police departments have records regarding gang members and do share the intelligence with each other.

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