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Gang-Related Crimes on the Decline in Northern VA

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A coalition of law enforcement agencies in Northern Virginia has released what it's calling a comprehensive look at gang activity across the region. The assessment paints a fairly rosy picture of the region's fight against criminal gangs.

Based on data from 2003 through 2008, it showed downward trends in several gang-related crime categories -- including robberies, burglaries, and violent crimes. But Loudoun County Sheriff Steve Simpson, a director of the Northern Virginia Regional Gang Task Force, says no one should think Northern Virginia is close to eradicating the problem.

"You don't get rid of them -- they don't go anywhere. They just don't commit the crimes they've been committing -- they're not as active. But they're still here," Simpson says.

Local police say gangs are becoming more organized and sophisticated. Lillian Brooks, who works with Alexandria's Juvenile Court, says the community needs to do a better job educating young people about the perils of gang life. "It's out there. It's just like everywhere. It's out there and to say that we don't have it is living in a dreamworld, frankly," Brooks says.

The assessment did find the region lacking in community programs targeting gang-involved teenagers...researchers say many community programs have academic requirements that may discourage participation.

Jonathan Wilson has more...

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