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The Vox Box

Mon., Oct. 15, 2007, 12:25 p.m.

Gang problem in Spokane?

"The blog gang sign" from

Today the Spokesman reported in an article by Jody Lawrence-Turner that results of a recent gang sweep in the Spokane area was "greatly exaggerated" and that officials took weeks to set the record straight.

The news that 77 "violent gang members and associates" had been arrested was big news with Spokane media on Oct. 1, and the figure has become a part of the mayoral campaign.

"We concentrated on the worst of the worst, chronic offenders with ties to illegal firearms and violent crime," Seattle Special Agent in Charge Kelvin Crenshaw said in a press release that day from the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

But the reality is about 35 people were booked into Spokane County Jail during the three-day operation. Some of them had no gang affiliation, and all but 10 have been released from jail.

Only one gun was seized, and arrests ranged from warrants for driving without a valid license and first-degree robbery. There were other misdemeanor charges that involved controlled substances.

Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich said the ATF (Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives) asked for a quote from him to be used in the press release two weeks before the roundup even occurred.

"Gang members and their willingness to use violence presents a significant threat to Spokane area residents and businesses," he was quoted as saying.

But on Thursday, Kirkpatrick, Knezovich and Mayor Dennis Hession said they had been misled and didn't know the real numbers until The Spokesman-Review insisted that the names of those arrested and their charges be released. It took a formal records request to get the information from the Sheriff's Office and the Police Department, and the ATF refused to comply with that request.

You can see the inacurate press release and more with the full story...

QUESTION: Do you feel there is a gang problem in Spokane?

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In 2006, then-editor Steve Smith of The Spokesman-Review had the idea of starting a publication for an often forgotten audience: teenagers. The Vox Box was a continuation of the Vox, an all-student staffed newspaper published by The Spokesman-Review. High school student journalists who staffed the Vox made all content decisions as they learn about the trade of journalism. This blog's mission was to give students an opportunity to publish their voices. The Vox Box and the Vox wrapped up in June 2009, but you can follow former staffers' new blog at