Gang killings number belies reality in city

December 30, 2018

Just one of the city’s 43 homicides this year is classified as gang-related, according to Deputy Chief Garry Hamilton, who tracks and classifies those deaths. Last year, 13 fell into that category.

But out on the street, Sgt. Gary Hensler of the Gang & Violent Crimes Unit says the statistics could be skewed in either direction.

“The vast majority of our homicides in our city year to year are either narcotics- or gang-related, usually both at the same time. I have not noticed a dip in this trend or of violent gang activity in this calendar year compared to last,” Hensler wrote in an email.

Hamilton says the classification has to stand up in court. Many victims who survive won’t tell who shot them and won’t cooperate with police, he said, making it impossible to legally classify a homicide or other criminal action as gang-related.

In June, after a particularly violent May : in which there were at least 15 shootings in the last half of the month that resulted in injuries and one homicide : a Violent Crime Interdiction was initiated, Hensler said. The task force included the Indiana State Police, federal partners, the Allen County Sheriff’s Department, along with the gang unit. During this time, police conducted saturation patrols.

Saturation patrols flood a particular area, sector or district with additional patrols, Hensler said. During the summer’s interdiction, for example, an additional eight to 10 patrols were sent into an area that normally would have two patrols, he added.

“During this task force and for several weeks afterwards, violent crimes took a significant drop. This wasn’t necessarily due to arrests, but the visual presence,” Hensler wrote. “Word was being spread mouth to mouth and via social media the police were out in force and to lay low.” 

The gang unit also works with the Fort Wayne homicide division and school resource officers.

This year saw a significant increase in raids and a jump in illegal firearms seized, Hensler said. Last year, the gang unit seized 130 illegal firearms; this year, 143. Last year, the gang unit conducted 17 raids; this year, 37.

“Homicides are only part of the equation when attempting to track and report gang violence in our City,” Hensler wrote. “Shootings (nonfatal), shots fired, assaults, illegal firearms confiscated, raids narcotics, etc. all give feedback.” 


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