Gang measures inconclusive in crime data

TACOMA - Robberies, assaults and other crimes dipped in a large part of Tacoma in February after police and federal agents cracked down on several reputed members of the city's oldest - and allegedly most active - street gang.

However, most of those crimes bounced back in March and then fell slightly in April. A Tacoma Police Department analysis didn’t include the months since.

Whether the fluctuations stemmed from the arrests and prosecutions of three dozen alleged members of the Hilltop Crips is just a guess at this point, Police Chief Don Ramsdell said.

“You can’t come to the conclusion that this is solely the result of taking down the Hilltop Crips,” he said recently. “I am sure it’s a combination of different things that are happening.”

Skip Vaughn, chairman of the South Tacoma Neighborhood Council, said his area has not seen much of a difference before or after the arrests. Residents have noticed suspected gang members in their neighborhood but don’t know which gang they belong to.

Police, FBI agents and other members of the South Sound Gang Task Force launched the effort against the Crips on Feb. 9.

Investigators and prosecutors alleged the men were wreaking havoc throughout the city, robbing patrons of nightclubs, getting into brawls, firing guns, stealing cars and trafficking stolen property.

Prosecutors eventually charged 36 men suspected of being part of the gang. All were charged with criminal conspiracy. The number of crimes tied to those arrested totaled more than 50.

Each man was ordered held in lieu of $1 million bail after pleading not guilty. Sixteen of the accused await trial, 18 have pleaded guilty or been convicted, one faces federal charges and one had his case dismissed.

The sweep was the largest on a single gang in recent history and raised questions about its impact on the city’s crime rate. To find out, police commanders took a preliminary look at the crime statistics before and after Feb. 9.

“The assumption is that if they were active in committing crimes … since incarceration, they don’t have that opportunity to commit crimes,” Ramsdell said.

A crime analyst pulled police reports from Jan. 1, 2008, to May 23, 2010, for the area of Tacoma where the accused Crips were most active. The oval-shaped area included parts of the Hilltop, East Side, South End and South Tacoma.