October 14, 1996 in Nation/World

Boise On The Verge Of A Growing Gang Problem Police Hope To Ward Off Trouble With Community Intervention

Associated Press

Authorities say Boise is on the verge of a growing problem with criminal gang activity.

Community intervention now - when the problem is small enough to manage - is critical, said Sgt. Pete Ritter, who heads the Boise police gang unit.

The unit is currently tracking 200 individual gang members with ties to the community.

“Less then one percent of our population of kids in Boise are involved in gangs,” Ritter said.

“The youngest we’re tracking is 11 years old. But of those 200, not all of them are under 18.”

In Boise, gangs have evolved over time to more closely reflect their big-city counterparts.

“A lot of them were school-year gangs - gangs that would dissolve over summer vacation,” Ritter said.

“What we’re finding now is that a few of our gangs have developed semi-permanent and permanent status.”

About a dozen gangs have originated in Boise in less than a decade. Most are known by the set - or subgroup of a gang - to which they belong. Ritter said he refuses to name the sets because publicity might bolster their commitment to gang life.

“Many of the Boise gangs are first-generation gangs,” Ritter said.

“They’re new and they have their own way of doing business, different from gangs in Salt Lake City or Spokane.

Membership can also be transitory.

“We don’t have gangs that are turf-oriented yet, and hopefully we won’t,” Ritter said.

“If you look at our community, that makes sense because we don’t have enclaves of underprivileged neighborhoods.”

Boise gang members do not fit stereotypical images. They are male and female and typically white. They can also come from middle class or upper middle class families.

© Copyright 1996 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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