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Berks County Gang Task Force gets a new focus in response to uptick in violence

Reading Eagle - 2/23/2021

Feb. 23—Responding to a recent uptick in violence associated with street gangs, the Berks County district attorney's office today announced that a task force formed more than a decade ago will be put to greater use.

The task force will focus on targeted patrols to combat gang activity as well as a prevention and intervention program designed for elementary and middle school-age children who are at risk of joining gangs.

The Berks County Gang Task Force was created 13 years ago and is composed of various law enforcement agencies throughout Berks.

The detective division of the district attorney's office along with the county juvenile and adult probation offices have taken the lead of the task force, District Attorney John T. Adams said in a news release.

Adams recently told the Reading Eagle that the coronavirus pandemic has had a negative impact on law enforcement's ability to conducted targeted patrols to disrupt gang activity. But now that law enforcement officers and other first-responders are vaccinated, ramped up, inter-agency patrols can be done.

The task force is composed of the following agencies:

Berks County Prison

Pennsylvania state parole

— Federal probation department

Reading police

Cumru Township police

Central Berks police

Muhlenberg Township police

Shillington police

Spring Township police

West Reading police

Wyomissing police

— State police

"This task force will continue to identify individuals who are members of criminal gangs in our community," Adams said in the release. "If these members are involved in criminal activity, the district attorney's office will seek a gang enhancement sentencing recommendation, which will increase an individual's sentence if the individual was involved in a crime of violence as defined in Pennsylvania law and the offense was knowingly committed at the direction of or for the purpose of benefiting, promoting or furthering the interests of a criminal gang."

He said the task force is committed to deterring violence in the community, obtaining intelligence on gangs and targeting identified gang members.

Adams urges anyone with information about crimes being committed by individuals or gangs to contact Crime Alert Berks County or a member the task force.

The task force will initiate the GREAT (Gang Resistance Education and Training) Program, which will focus on elementary and middle school-age children at risk of joining gangs and develop relationships between police and the communities they serve.

"Through this intervention program, our children will receive guidance which hopefully will steer them away from becoming involved with a gang," Adams said.

This story will be updated.


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