Waco City Council members are being asked to approve an application for $3.5 million dollars in grant money to fight criminal gangs in Central Texas.
The money, which would come from the Texas Anti-Gang Program, would be used to set up a regional anti-gang coalition hosted by the Waco Police Department.
The Criminal Justice Division of the Office of the Governor administers an invitation only grant program to fund the Texas Anti-Gang Initiative.
“It was determined that in our proximity of I-35, with it being a corridor from an international border, it was determined that Waco would be a good place to have a tag effort,” Waco Chief of Police Ryan Holt said.
If the grant is approved, it would go to building an anti-gang center in Waco.
The money would pay for any construction costs in adapting buildings for use, for computers and other equipment and to help cover overall operating expenses.
Money could also be used for training, technical assistance, planning, research, forensics, data collection, personnel, equipment, task force officer overtime, supplies, help from outside contractors and criminal justice information systems.
“Nowadays it’s not like the old days in the 80’s and 90’s when you had the stereotypical gangs,” Holt said. “It’s now more of a hybrid situation where people are using technology to engage in organize crime and commit crimes against the community.”
In a report from the Texas Department of Public Safety, McLennan and Bell County are two of Central Texas’ top areas for Crips and Bloods. This program would now pair police to fight back in those counties
“Gang members don’t know where city limits begin and end. They don’t know where county areas begin and end,” Holt said. “So the same bad guys we see in McLennan County are the same bad guys we will see within Bell County.”
The purpose of the program is to support partnerships and targeted regional efforts to fight gang violence by coordinating action to prevent and suppress it.
If set up like other similar centers, local, state, and federal agencies would have people move in together in a facility to make it easier to combine resources to more effectively fight gang violence and reduce related crimes.
Similar operations have been set up in Houston, San Antonio, El Paso, Lubbock, and the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex.