Aug 6, 2012 12:45 AM by Matt Stafford

Troops recruited by gangs big concern for local law enforcement

The number of gang members tracked by the Colorado Springs Police Department has doubled since 2006 and right now that number is hovering around 1,200 known gang members; that's according to the department's Community Impact Team, or COMMIT for short. Six officers on the team do nothing but track suspected gang activity and investigate related cases. One of their concerns right now has to do with new gang members coming from the military.

On March 3rd 31-year-old Virgil Means was beaten, then shot outside the Sin City Disciples motorcycle clubhouse in Colorado Springs. Means later died. Six arrests have been made so far -- including three Fort Carson soldiers charged with first degree murder.

They're cases haven't been decided and are still open.

"Gang involvement tied to military at Fort Carson," says Dick Tracy, a board member for Colorado Security, Threat, and Intelligence Network Group (also known as STING); they track local crime trends.

Tracy says he's watched gang activity increase in Colorado Springs in recent years. News 5 asked if more members of the military are getting involved.

"It is becoming an increasing problem," says Tracy.

"It's a concern but no more than anywhere else in the military," responds Lt. Col. Michael Kropushek, the director of Emergency Services at Fort Carson.

Fort Carson officials aren't ready to say military involvement in gangs a growing problem.

"Recruitment and our gang activity are relatively low compared to other instillations in the Department of Defense," says Lt. Col. Kropushek. He says Fort Carson it's watched from a command level, by the leaders working with soldiers every day.

"The information evolves, and the atmosphere evolves with it, and they keep up on the latest trends, the signs," explains Lt. Col. Korpushek

Lt. Col. Kropushek says out of the total number of soldiers on the Mountain Post, not many are involved with gangs.

"Very small; it's negligible," says Lt. Col. Kropushek.

The Colorado Springs Police Department sees the situation differently.

"I wouldn't say it's a small number; I would say the number is enough to be of a concern for us," explains Detective Jackson Andrews; a member of the Colorado Springs Police Department's COMMIT unit.

Detective Andrews has been working on gang activity for the police department since 1998. To him, members of the military that end up in gangs are a big concern.

Tracy with Colorado STING agrees.

"It's because of the expertise and training that they receive," says Tracy. "Not only about the weapons, but about explosives and tactical maneuvers."

"They're used to hand to hand combat, urban warfare; they know how to enter a building and do sweeps," adds Det. Andrews.

How are these military members being recruited? Tracy tells News 5 about one growing method.

"Social media is becoming a big issue," explains Tracy.

Police are noticing a different trend.

"From what we see it's actually military getting involved with our local gangs here," says Det. Andrews. "They come to Colorado Springs; the first thing they do is they're going to link up to something that they're familiar with, and in our case we have a lot of 'super gangs,' I want to say, that are big in other metropolitan cities."

Det. Andrews says the military members that end up getting involved in gangs usually meet them through similar interests; like making rap music, which he says is very a very common connection.

At Fort Carson they say they'll continue to monitor soldiers, and step in if they feel there's a problem. Soldiers, or members of any branch of military service, aren't allowed to join gangs.

"They get administered punishment under the Uniform Code of Military Justice; non judicial, maybe sometimes judicial punishment, and they get dealt with," explains Lt. Col. Kropushek.

CSPD says one of the biggest pieces of help they get investigating gang crimes is from you, in the form of tips. If you see any thing suspicious or think you know of on-going gang activity; police want you to call it in. You can remain anonymous; just call local Crime Stoppers at 634-STOP (7867).

For more on Colorado STING, click here.



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