The Garden City Telegram
1/8/2013
OPINIONS AND COMMENTARY

Gang fight

Prosecution, intervention have to go hand-in-hand.

Crime fighters have to be relentless if they're to stay a step ahead of criminals.

With that in mind, it's good to know Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt has made a high priority of efforts to help prosecutors fight a problem that plagues many communities: gang activity.

Schmidt — a former Republican lawmaker in Kansas — plans to ask the Kansas Legislature to approve a new anti-racketeering law, one endorsed by the Gang Free Kansas task force Schmidt formed in 2012.

The proposal would allow prosecutors to go after gangs for alleged patterns of criminal activity, as well as single criminal acts. Schmidt rightly views the strategy as another way to tackle the growing presence of street gangs in Kansas.

Stepped-up pursuit and prosecution of those involved in such criminal activity would indeed help send a message that the intimidation, assault and other violent crimes gang members see as a way of life won't be tolerated.

That said, a state interested in curbing gang activity must commit to a multifaceted approach. The attorney general, to his credit, also has made education a priority with a new website — gangfreekansas.org — and other initiatives to help parents and other stakeholders understand the extent of the problem, and be on the lookout for warning signs.

While young gang members must be tracked down and held accountable for crimes, it's also necessary to close the pipeline that delivers new recruits into gangs. Keeping youngsters from being drawn to gangs in the first place gives communities the most realistic chance of preventing crime and saving young lives.

And that means the effort to combat gang activity in Garden City and other towns has to extend past law enforcement. Police, school officials, governments, churches and other organizations all must band together to make headway in curbing a community problem.

With a solid one-two punch of law enforcement and intervention, communities should gain ground in the battle against a problem that exacts a costly toll throughout Kansas.

Lawmakers who care about quality of life in their communities should support Schmidt's latest pitch as another important step in that direction.