Peoria host anti-gang conference

By Denise Jackson

November 13, 2012 Updated Nov 13, 2012 at 11:00 PM CDT

PEORIA, Ill. -- Law enforcement officials from around the state are sharing intelligence to fight growing gang problems plaguing communities, including Peoria.

Several members of the Bomb Squad gang were among some of the initial targets recently arrested under Peoria's Don't Shoot anti-crime fighting initiative. It's that kind of zero tolerance that law enforcement officials from around the state are discussing in this two-day conference at the Peoria Civic Center.

"They have creeped out to all over the state, not just in Illinois but all over the country. What we've seen is that the gangs have become more sophisticated and they're into different types of crime, like human trafficking and mortgage fraud," said Cook County State's Attorney Anita Alvarez.

Law enforcement officials estimate that there are 1.4 million gang members around the United States attracting new recruits, from within families to elementary school students. As police departments try to maintain safety under shrinking budgets, they say intelligence gathering becomes crucial to gang enforcement.

"You absolutely have to have the connectivity of those law enforcement officers, those agencies to connect training like this where they share information and say this is what I'm seeing and what I'm seeing," said Rusty Keeble of the Florida based Gang Professionals LLC.

"Many of our gangs have some connection to Chicago or St. Louis and other places. It's good for the officers to have those connections so we can stay ahead of it," said Peoria Police Chief Steve Settingsgaard.

Law enforcement officials say trends and illegal activity among gangs are changing so fast that conferences like this are necessary to develop long term strategies to keep pressure on them.

It's the kind of pressure Peoria police hope will become a deterrent for other local gangs to put down their weapons and stop the violence.

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