Gang Crime Gets a New Definition in SLC

Police is Salt Lake City have a new tactic to track gang crime that will likely show a boost in gang activity in the city.

The new policy broadens the scope of what qualifies as gang-related crime, and is the result of a three-year study on the issue, according to the Salt Lake Tribune.

“We’re not looking at it as overstating gang problems,” said Lt. Isaac Atencio. “We look at it as getting a clearer picture of gang problems.”

The new definition no longer looks at motive when tracking criminal gang activity.

In the city’s old definition, gang crime had to show a clear motivation for the gang’s interests, such as murder of a rival gang member or robbery to finance the gang.

The new definition includes any crime in which either the perpetrator or the victim is a gang member.

So what is a gang member? The city has established a set of criteria to identify a gang member for crime tracking purposes. Any two of the following will qualify either party:

  • Self proclamation of gang membership
  • Photographs displaying gang involvement (such as gang writings/graffiti on notebooks, books, walls, personal items, etc.)
  • Gang-style tattoos
  • Gang-style attire
  • Gang signs or posturing
  • Arrested (or known contact) with other known gang members
  • Information from a reliable source

These loose guidelines (particularly the gang-style qualifiers) could lead to some false-positives for gang crime.

The district prosecutors will likely be imposing harsher sentences for gang-related crime, and a Utah criminal attorney will likely point out the flaws in the criteria.

Salt Lake City is not the first to broaden their definitions of gang crime.  Los Angeles uses the same set of criteria to track gang crimes in their city.

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