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Kansas attorney general unveils gang awareness program patterned after Gang Free Wichita

Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt on Wednesday announced a new initiative to combat gang activity.

Gang Free Kansas is patterned after the Wichita Crime Commission’s 2-year-old program, Gang Free Wichita.

“It’s especially sweet to be here in Wichita, since the idea came out of Wichita,” Schmidt said during a presentation at the Scotch and Sirloin.

The National Gang Intelligence Center has reported that on average, nationwide, 48 percent of violent crime has a gang connection, Schmidt said. The goals of the Kansas initiative are to keep youth from joining gangs and to educate the community on ways to identify and report gang activity.

“I think this can be a great step forward” in combating gangs, Sedgwick County Sheriff Robert Hinshaw said. “This is another tool in our tool box.”

Schmidt said he envisions Gang Free Kansas as grassroots coalitions communicating with each other to reduce — even eliminate — the gang influence around the state. Members of the Wichita Crime Commission have been working with the attorney general’s office for several months to create the framework for the program. There are resources in Spanish and Vietnamese as well as English, Schmidt said.

“It’s a big compliment for the Wichita Crime Commission and for the law enforcement community in this town,” said Gordon Bassham, executive director of the commission. “The whole purpose behind Gang Free Wichita is to educate kids, their parents and the public about the insidious nature of gangs.”

Gang Free Wichita — www.wichitacrimecommission.org/GangFreeWichita — offers information about street gangs and their impact on society, as well as what parents and grandparents should look for in a child’s behavior that might indicate he or she is either in a gang or is being recruited by gang members.

The attorney general’s office has created a website for Gang Free Kansas at www.GangFreeKansas.org.

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