Garfield County tackling gang activity
Glenwood Springs correspondent
Aspen, CO Colorado
GLENWOOD SPRINGS ” The Garfield County Sheriff’s Office has developed a new Threat Assessment Group, or TAG unit, in response to an increase in gang-style activity in local communities.
The sheriff’s office created the unit in response to activity withiin the county jail a couple of years ago, according to Sheriff’s Office spokeswoman Holly Hopple, a former detention deputy. But the unit is now being extended out into the community because of concerns about increased gang activity.
“We started seeing issues in the jail a couple of years ago,” Hopple said. “While the unit has only officially been around for a couple of months, the training has been ongoing for a couple of years.”
Two full-time sheriff deputies are assigned to the special unit, with an additional two patrol deputies who relay information to the rest of the patrolers.
The unit’s primary goal is to combat gang-related criminal activity by educating communities on how to spot gang activity and what resources are available if they do.
“One of the main things we are seeing is that people are seeing more gang-like activity, but they don’t know if it’s related or what to do when they see it,” Hopple said.
The sheriff’s office is holding public meeting, “Recognizing Gangs, the Signs of Gangs and Gang Members,” on March 19, at Riverside Middle School in New Castle at 7 p.m. The first of several meetings, the presentation will share information on gangs that sheriff’s deputies have noticed in the valley. That information includes signs that represent different gangs, graffiti and what it means, what type of clothing and dress has been seen in the community and within the local schools that have been connected with gang activity, and “gang-like” behaviors of adults and youths.
“We hope it will educate people so they can recognize and know if they need to be concerned with what they see or not,” Hopple said. “And so they know that we are here to help if they need it.”
The sheriff’s office is currently the only law enforcement agency involved in the unit. According to Hopple, the office hopes it will grow into a multiagency unit involving municipal law enforcement within Garfield County as well from neighboring counties.
With neighboring Mesa and Eagle counties connected via Interstate 70, the counties share common concerns about rising level of gang activity, Hopple noted.
The sheriff’s office hopes that with community awareness and involvement, TAG will begin to collect more valuable information on the status of gang activity in the region, too.
“It will be an intelligence board to start getting intelligence on the related activities and how we can combat it,” Hopple said.
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