Gang-related crimes nearly doubled in Denver during first 4 months of 2013

DENVER - Gang-related violent crimes have nearly doubled in Denver during the first four months of this year.

The Denver Post found the overall number of gang-related or motivated offenses has remained nearly steady in the first four months of this year compared to 2012, but police department figures show an increasing percentage of violent gang-related crimes.

The newspaper reported that aggravated assaults, for example, have more than doubled, from 47 between Jan. 1 and April 22, 2012 to 107 during the same period this year. In the first four months of 2012, there were 72 gang-related crimes against persons; in that same period this year there have been 132.

The trend comes despite a police program, called Ceasefire, aimed at encouraging gangsters to lead more peaceful lives. It holds meetings with the gang members and offers a path toward reform through job-placement programs, rehab and counseling.

Since the effort began, 20 members of four gangs have availed themselves of offers for tattoo removal, job training and other services.

Denver police officials say it is too soon to gauge the success of the program, and that the crime data doesn't tell the entire story.

But Dianne Cooks, whose son was paralyzed in a gang-related shooting in 2005, told The Denver Post the program has not gone far enough to curb gang violence.

"It's not working yet," said Cooks, director of Families Against Violent Acts. "It ain't going down. And it's getting warmer, so we don't know what's going to happen now. I think it's going to get worse."

The data obtained by The Denver Post shows police have classified at least five of this year's 19 homicides as gang-related or motivated.

At the same time last year, there had been just three such killings.

Gangs have been linked to the shooting of Sgt. Robert Motyka during a police chase and gun battle on the northwest side and the shooting during last month's 4/20 marijuana rally at Civic Center Park.

The gang unit is also investigating the shooting that put an 8-year-old boy in the hospital on April 29. That bullet passed through the rear hatch of a Jeep and a backseat before hitting the child in the back.

"I'm troubled by the shootings," Chief Robert White told The Denver Post. "But I'm confident about the program. It's just too early right now. It's hard to make an assessment of the effectiveness of how the program has been."

Read the full story at The Denver Post: http://ch7ne.ws/128YD2M

Contact reporter Sadie Gurman: 303-954-1661, sgurman@denverpost.com or twitter.com/sgurman