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Thursday, May 5, 2011 12:37 pm

Police say Springfield has no organized gangs

A House bill aiming to uproot gang violence before it starts is one of many attempts by the General Assembly this session to decrease violence in Illinois.

House Bill 3033, sponsored by Sen. Michael Noland, an Elgin Democrat, would seek a federal grant from the Department of Juvenile Justice to fund gang prevention and intervention programs statewide.

Communities with high instances of gang violence or a high priority for gang prevention would be eligible for grant money as well as nonprofits, non-governmental organizations and coalitions.

Several shootings in Springfield during April raise the question of whether gangs have a presence in Springfield and Sangamon County.

Deputy Police Chief Cliff Buscher says that the April shootings were not gang-related. Springfield police say that there are groups of individuals in Springfield who try to copy gangs in other cities through the way they dress or by spray painting graffiti on buildings, like those seen on the corner of Martin Luther King Jr. Drive and East Cook Street.

“Most of the traditional gangs…they’re very disciplined, they have a leadership, they have mid-level managers. They’ve got soldiers. They’re also very territorial,” says Buscher.

“We’ve got groups of people. A lot of them like to call themselves gang members and gangbangers,” says Buscher.

He says that most of the “groups” in Springfield center around narcotics sales, as gangs often do, but do not fit the mold of an organized gang. He says members of these different groups are friends and most of them grew up together. They commingle, they go back and forth between groups, which is something organized gangs do not tolerate, says Buscher.

He says there are no marked territories throughout town. “Nobody owns a certain corner. Nobody owns a block or a street. There’s no leadership, it’s just like, whoever feels like being with this person, this day,” says Buscher.

“They’ll do spray painting but most of it is stuff that’s off of national gangs,” says Buscher. He confirms that there are paintings of triple crowns in the city limits, a symbol of the Simon City Royals, a Chicago-based gang.

“They’re copying stuff they’ve seen,” he says. “On occasion, we’ll get members of a street gang, either from Chicago or from St. Louis, that’ll come into town and try to set up. Usually they try to start up with a drug house.”

The department has started “going after” gang members who come into Springfield from larger cities and often find them through routine traffic stops.

“We haven’t had any of the major gangs here actually set up here and actually get these people organized,” he says.

With summer approaching, an increase in crime is common and police will pay special attention to problems areas in an effort to get ahead of crime.

The SPD has applied for a federal community-based violence prevention grant in an effort to decrease violence in Springfield but Buscher did not provide specifics on the grant.

Contact Holly Dillemuth at hdillemuth@illinoistimes.com.
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