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How Elgin Police fight street gang activity.

Byline: Det. Thomas Wolek Elgin Police Department

No city, suburb, or community is immune from the effects of street gangs.

Over the years, Elgin has experienced a reduction in street gang crime due to proactive measures the department initiates, as well as through key enforcement, arrests, and seizures of illegal drugs and firearms.

These accomplishments are a direct result of officers being involved in collaborations between several different specialty and patrol units working in partnership with members of the community.

The department recognizes we cannot arrest the community out of a gang problem. The police must look deeper into the root causes of its membership and crimes; intervention is vital.

Ten years ago, ideas were discussed as to how the Gang Crimes Unit could be more effective in eradicating street gangs and their membership within the city of Elgin. From this discussion, Operation Home Front was created for youth showing signs of membership, or interest in, street gangs. The program involves the following:

* Partnering with the School Resource Officers who are assigned to Elgin's middle schools and high schools. Officers began exchanging information about juveniles who exhibited signs of street gang involvement. This information could be derived from a number of indicators, such as a school suspension for fighting as a result of street gang involvement, or possessing or damaging property with street gang graffiti, just to name a few. School Resource Officers then refer the juvenile's information to the Gang Crimes Unit.

* Gang Crimes Unit officers will conduct a home visit for any juvenile that is referred by a School Resource Officer. They will meet with the parents and juvenile(s) to discuss the referral. These visits present an excellent opportunity for exchanges of information between the police, parents and children. Officers provide literature to parents about indicators of street gang involvement, consequences of involvement, and available resources to assist them with preventing their child from joining a gang. Officers will speak with juveniles and discuss the consequences of joining a gang and provide other positive alternatives. It is a priority for officers to ensure that the juvenile is safe and not being forced to participate in street gang related activities.

* There are occasions when officers, with permission from parents, will check a child's bedroom or other areas for gang indicia, weapons or illegal narcotics. There have been times when officers have recovered weapons, such as firearms, during these checks. When officers do discover items of concern, such as gang indicia, officers will educate parents as to what to look for and assist them with removing the item(s) of concern from the home. Officers work with the parents to find alternative ways to address other issues such as minor drug possession.

* The Gang Crimes unit partners with Elgin Police Department's Social Services Division, conducts follow-ups once a home visit has been completed.

Over the past 10 years, the Gang Crimes Unit has conducted hundreds of home visits that have resulted in seizures of weapons and gang indicia, but, more importantly, hundreds of positive relationships have been made.

Currently, street gang membership and its related crime is down and has continued to trend downward for several years. We believe that the proactive measures we have implemented have had a positive impact on more than crime, but also youth in our community.

* For the past 18 years, Wolek has been assigned as a detective with the Elgin Police Department's Gang Crime Unit. The goal of every officer assigned to the Gang Unit is to investigate gang motivated crime, gather gang intelligence and combat street gang activities. If you would like more information about this program, or if you would like to speak with Wolek, he can be reached at (847) 289-2695 or contacted by email at
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Title Annotation:Neighbor
Publication:Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL)
Date:Apr 17, 2019
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