Frustrated by several major unsolved crimes, Wichita police are taking the unprecedented step of creating a list of most-wanted gang members.
Police officials are encouraging anyone who knows where they might be hiding to call Crime Stoppers or 911.
“Basically, it’s a chance to give the citizens a chance to help us out and get these individuals off the street … and reduce gang violence in the city,” said Lt. Scott Heimerman, head of the gang unit. “Some of these individuals have a past that’s violent, some not.
“There are several that we have not been able to find.”
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All of the people on the list have felony warrants and should be considered armed and dangerous, police said.
The list is something of a trial run, Heimerman said.
“If the public steps up” with useful information on the location of suspects, “this program will continue for weeks to come,” he said.
Gang violence is up markedly this year compared to last year, Heimerman said, though 2012 was below normal and 2013 is actually in line with the five-year average for Wichita.
The city’s two most recent homicides have gang ties and seven of the 10 killings in 2013 do, authorities have said.
Lemmie Alford, 25, was shot to death in the street at 15th and Green late on the night of July 24. Although Alford was a documented gang member, Heimerman said, police have not yet determined whether his killing was linked to gang activity.
A war of words between rival gang members at an after-hours warehouse party escalated into a shootout that killed documented gang member James Gary, 27, early on the morning of July 14. Four other people were injured, including two critically.
“There’s been a rash recently,” Heimerman said. “People are becoming more aware of it.”
This is the first time Wichita police have ever released a list of top gang members, he said. Not even during the gang wars in the mid-1990s did police attempt this tactic.
But authorities are taking this “proactive” approach in hopes of preventing a return to rampant gang violence, Heimerman said.
The list not only lets residents know whom police are looking for, officials say, but it’s also a way to let gang members know that investigators are aggressively pursuing the cases.
“It’s just another way to keep the pressure on them so we don’t have a complete blow-up this summer,” Heimerman said of gang members.
In the first hour the list was on the Wichita Police Department’s Facebook page, he said, it drew 4,500 views. That’s a promising sign, he said.
People with knowledge about the wanted gang members can call the gang unit at 316-268-4191, Crime Stoppers at 316-267-2111, or 911. Information can also be submitted to Crime Stoppers online at www.wsccs.com or from a mobile phone by texting TIP217 then your message to CRIMES (274637).