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Database tracks nearly 40 Green Bay gangs

Authorities have identified nearly 40 different street gangs in the Green Bay area with a new database created to keep track of the issue.

Those gangs have 562 confirmed or suspected members, including associates — people who may socialize with gang members or allow meetings in their homes but are not involved in criminal activity.

Police have identified known or suspected gang members in each of the city's public high schools and Washington Middle School, said Green Bay police Lt. Gary Richgels.

Richgels is supervisor of the Gang Task Force, a group of about 12 police officers who help identify gang members. Since the unit began operating last fall, it has not made any arrests, but it has provided gang intelligence and bolstered its database, Richgels said.

The database gives police background information once a suspect is arrested, including ties to other gang members and previous criminal acts.

The database is new, but Richgels said he has seen an increase in street gangs in the last 10 years that engage in everything from vandalism to drugs, he said.

"They engage in anything that'll make them money or instill fear in others," Richgels said.

Police suspect gang members were involved in a shooting last month in which several rounds were fired into a two-story residence in the 600 block of 14th Avenue. No one was injured, but the resident has moved, saying she feared for her safety.

On Feb. 18, a 17-year-old boy was injured by a car fleeing a McDonald's restaurant parking lot. The incident was retaliation for a gang fight that occurred in December, Richgels said. Two other 17-year-olds have been charged in connection with the disturbance.

Police say gangs are a problem across the city, but especially within 10 blocks east and west of downtown. Gangs also have been identified in Bellevue and Ashwaubenon.

Some gangs are locally grown, while others are based in California and Chicago but have members here, he said.

"I definitely know some (gang members) are born and raised here, and some are moving here, too," Richgels said.

Devone Doss, 38, lives a block from the location of the March shooting. He said gangs have also been responsible for local home invasions and burglaries.

"It's not about colors anymore. It's not about hats anymore. Now, it's all about money," he said.

The area's gang problem will be as bad as cities like Milwaukee or Chicago in the next 10 years if something doesn't change, he said.

"They have to break the reasons people go to gangs," Doss said. "They go because they don't have a family, and they want to feel safe."

Residents should remain vigilant at reporting crimes and suspicious activity, Richgels said. However, gangs likely are here to stay.

"A gang may provide structure, support and love. If they're not getting it anywhere else, they aren't going to leave it, because that's their family," he said.

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