The Gang Violence Task Force is responsible for collaborating with other agencies to aggressively target violent gangs and their members. The Task Force utilizes long term investigations which are prepared and presented to the federal court system for prosecution.
In January 2003, in response to a rapidly increasing level of suspected gang violence within the City of Syracuse, members of the Syracuse Police Department met with the United States Attorney’s Office in an effort to explore options within the federal legal system to assist in dealing with this issue. The result was the formation of the Syracuse Gang Violence Task Force. Local and federal law enforcement agencies, along with the U.S. Attorney’s Office, became participants in this task force. The law enforcement agencies include the Syracuse Police Department, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, the Drug Enforcement Administration, the Onondaga County Sheriff’s Department and the New York State Police.
In early 2003, the Gang Violence Task Force targeted a local street gang known as “Boot Camp”, which was heavily involved in the sale of large quantities of crack cocaine. Boot Camp was widely considered by the Task Force to be the most violent gang in the City of Syracuse, routinely perpetrating shootings and murders against rival gang members.
The Gang Violence Task Force reviewed thousands of reports spanning a ten year period relating to criminal incidents involving known Boot Camp gang members. These incidents included, among other things, witness intimidation, shootings, robberies, home invasions, murders and drug trafficking.
In less than six months, twenty six of the most violent members of this gang were brought to justice through a sweeping RICO (Racketeer Influenced Corrupt Organization Act) indictment that held them accountable for the gang’s activities for close to a ten year period, ranging from individual drug trafficking incidents to brutal murders. All twenty six were convicted and sentenced to lengthy prison sentences. The results on the street were immediate as the murder rate in the City of Syracuse plummeted 40% in the year following the prosecution and violent crime and drug trafficking dropped precipitously in the gang’s former territory.
The “Elk Block Gang” was the next targeted. This gang was the chief rival to the Boot Camp Gang and equally responsible for incredible acts of violence. In July 2005, sixteen of the most long-term violent members of the Elk Block Gang were indicted on RICO charges. Eleven pled guilty. The remaining five were convicted in a six week trial, with two of the five sentenced to mandatory life sentences for two unsolved murders.
Another sweeping RICO indictment resulted in the arrest of fourteen members of the Brighton Brigade Gang in August of 2006. All fourteen of the defendants pled guilty to their charges.
In the summer of 2007 the Gang Violence Task Force launched another investigation into gangs operating on the east side of Syracuse. In March of 2008 eleven of the most notorious members were arrested. All but one of the arrested persons has pled guilty to their charges.
By combining the forces of local, county, state, and federal, police and prosecutors, these investigations have led to the single greatest success in reducing and deterring violent gang crime in the history of law enforcement in Syracuse. The Gang Violence Task Force has brought to justice over 100 hardened gang members. The success of these investigations has been held up as a model across the state and country.