Police change rules for identifying gang members - 8 News NOW

Police change rules for identifying gang members

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LAS VEGAS -- Metro Police says approximately 20,000 identified gang members now roam Las Vegas streets, with the number jumping dramatically in the past decade. The way police identify potential gang members is about to change.

The local chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union said police used a secretive process to put potential gang members on a list. According to the ACLU, some of those people aren't gang members, and police didn't tell people they were being put on the list.

Metro Police Deputy Chief Al Salinas said, under the new policy, people will now know if they've been identified as gang members. Adults will get a letter in the mail. Children and teens will get a home visit from Metro's Gang Unit.

"The reality is if we can save one child, that's important,” Salinas said. "We believe, like in a lot of situations, if you get to the root of the problem early, you can hopefully divert the child away from a gang lifestyle."

Allen Lichtenstein, the ACLU's general counsel, says the policy change was the result of months of negotiations with Metro Police. Lichtenstein says additional steps are still needed.

"They would have a secret process of identifying people and putting them into a database, and it could affect their lives, and they wouldn't even know it,” Lichtenstein said. "We'd like to see that tightened up, but, again, this is a very good, very important step."

Police say certain tattoos are signs of gang membership, but also wearing specific clothing or visiting known gang areas can also be enough to get someone on the list.

The gang lifestyle is dangerous, violent and difficult to escape. Authorities say they have seen a rise in hybrid gangs - groups that combine the gang mentality with other crimes like sex trafficking and money laundering.

The ACLU added that, under the old policy, some people discovered they were on the gang list after potential employers denied them work.

Under the new policy, people placed on the gang list will have the opportunity to appeal. For more information on the new gang policy and gangs in Las Vegas, go to lvmpd.com.
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