New Bedford to Chart Local Response to Gang Crime
The city of New Bedford could be looking at new ways to fight gang activity and organized crime. The move on the local level comes after last week's FBI SWAT team raids on the Latin Kings in New Bedford.
At Thursday's City Council meeting, at-large councilor Brian Gomes put five related resolutions on the table, which were accepted by a majority of the council. Now talks will presumably begin about how local government can launch a coordinated response to the gang violence problem.
The first measure would have the Committee on Public Safety and Neighborhoods convene a summit. The meeting would look at what "enforcement mechanisms, laws regulations, ordinances or government action" could be launched to deal with gangs that are using apartment buildings in the city for criminal activity. Invited would be city attorney John Flor, Police Chief Joseph Cordeiro, the New Bedford Police Gang Unit, the city building commissioner, local landlords, and others.
The second measure requests that the New Bedford Police Department "be brought up to full strength" with qualified individuals, as budgeted. The third asks the City Council to inform the District Attorney's Office that it wishes all gang affiliates arrested in New Bedford to be held without bail pending dangerousness hearings.
The fourth resolution requests that a now-vacant position in the New Bedford Police Department be filled. The officer would act as a liaison between local police and the FBI's anti-gang task force.
The fifth and final measure asks that a national law enforcement presence be established in New Bedford. Specifically, it asks that Mayor Jon Mitchell and Chief Cordiero "establish and properly equip a National Gang Task Force division within the New Bedford Police Department" to fight national gang activity in the city. The division would collaborate with local, state, and federal law enforcement agencies.
Gomes told WBSM that city officials have long been "in denial" about the level of gang activity and organized crime in the city, and that last week's FBI raids "place the city in a negative light." He said it's time to marshall local resources to deal with the problem.
Last Thursday, FBI agents raided at least two apartment buildings in the near North End. The takedown capped "Operation Throne Down," a five-year undercover investigation targeting the Latin Kings in New Bedford and across Massachusetts and the Northeast.
The operation charged 22 members or affiliates of the organized crime syndicate who were operating "with impunity" out of New Bedford, according to the U.S. Department of Justice.