We need more residents and parents to get involved to prevent gang and juvenile violence throughout our city. Recent anti-gang marches, public pledges of support and collaboration among civic organizations must be long-term strategies aimed at addressing and resolving a problem that has lingered in our community since 1989, when gangs from California, Illinois and Oklahoma settled into our community.
Early on, too many Wichitans were in denial about gangs, as if they were a fad that would pass. Instead, they became a menace in our community, causing death and destruction.
In 1993, when Wichita experienced 57 homicides and hundreds of drive-by shootings, a frustrated community rose up against this scourge of gang violence.
From 1990 through 2000, there were 386 total homicides, of which 154 (40 percent) were gang-related. Homicides only tell a part of the story. From 2001 through 2010 so far, there have been 250 homicides, of which 93 (37 percent) were gang-related. And since 1992, there have been about 1,700 drive-by shootings (related to gangs and domestic violence).
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The Wichita Police Department has collaborated with other agencies involved in the prevention, intervention and suppression of gang violence, including prosecution, probation, schools, community agencies and citizens. As a result of this collaboration, since 2000 the city of Wichita has experienced a 35 percent reduction in homicides and 61 percent reduction in drive-by shootings when compared with the 1990s.
These reductions have occurred because of a community that is committed to leveraging its resources to make a positive difference in the lives of all Wichitans.
The WPD will continue its aggressive suppression efforts, which include conducting special assignments with local and federal agencies, targeting specific violent gang members, working with the Sedgwick County Department of Corrections to conduct curfew checks on gang members, aggressively investigating gang crimes, and working closely with the Sedgwick County District Attorney's Office and U.S. Attorney's Office.
But suppression efforts are only one part of a comprehensive plan to reduce gang violence. We need residents to keep working together and to share information with our law enforcement officers.
Residents, civic organizations, religious groups and government organizations can all help. We can shape and determine the future of our city.
We must remain diligent in our efforts to combat gangs, invest in our youths and build a healthy and sustainable community.