Safe Streets Initiave combats gangs

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By Carol A. Clark

ALBUQUERQUE — “The FBI considers gangs and drug enterprises the same as organized crime – and we attack them in the same way,” said Supervisory Special Agent Stephen S. Woolery during last week’s FBI Citizens’ Academy session.

Woolery spoke of how “New Jack City” is the first movie that put crack cocaine out there as a drug, adding that agents found a copy of the movie in almost every crack house they busted in Illinois.

In San Antonio, “Scarface” with Al Pacino was the movie they found in most dope houses. “These characters are being acted out in our communities,” he said. “Is life imitating art or is art imitating life? Second and third generations are watching the glorification of the drug lifestyle in these movies. Hollywood, the music industry ... there’s so much support for this lifestyle.”

In Los Angeles, gangs use street names to identify themselves, such as the Hoover Street Crips. They were buying up entire blocks of houses and apartment complexes with drug sales, he said. He showed the class a video of a gang in Fresno. The members bragged and pranced around in front of the camera holding various weapons and showing a large cache of rifles, bags of crack cocaine, marijuana plants and piles of money.

In Europe gang members outgrow the anti-establishment behavior, Woolery said. But that hasn’t been the case in the U.S. The San Diego FBI just stood up a task force to target Asian Gangs.

“It’s all about representing this thug lifestyle,” he said. “For those of us who go to work and have bank accounts and take care of our families - we can’t get it. Gangs are very violent and very unpredictable so we don’t typically use undercover agents - we use targets.”

On Jan. 9, 1992, the FBI announced the Safe Streets Task Force. The SSTF is an initiative designed to allow the Special Agent in Charge of each FBI field division to address street gang and drug-related violence through the establishment of FBI-sponsored, long-term, proactive task forces focusing on violent gangs, crimes of violence, and the apprehension of violent fugitives.

“We stood up a task force here in November,” Woolery said. “One of the major benefits of our task force is the impact it has on the community. The FBI has developed a model methodology to identify a community’s crime problem and develop a strategy to address that problem.”

“We pretty much have a SafeStreets Taskforce in every FBI Field office,” Woolery said. “We look at it like a perfect marriage between us and the local law enforcement. The FBI has a little more time to be deliberate and local police, the way they do business driving their beats year in and out is priceless.”

Reporter Carol A. Clark is a student in the FBI Citizens’ Academy.