CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa — On a day where Des Moines police insist dozens of known gangs are operating within the city, Cedar Rapids Police Chief Wayne Jerman said there may be criminal activity in town involving groups of young people but no organized gangs.
“Are there gangs in Cedar Rapids?” Jerman asked rhetorically during an interview on Wednesday. “If you use the criminal definition of a gang … yes. There are groups of people, three or more, who engage in some sort of criminal activity. Are there organized criminal gangs within the city? No, not that we’ve been able to determine.”
KCCI-TV in Des Moines reported on Wednesday that “more than 30 known gangs” do operate in Des Moines, tagging their territory through graffiti.
Yet, in a year with seven homicide victims in Cedar Rapids so far in 2014, Jerman said their findings are not a formal gang operation within the city but on pockets of younger adults in criminal behavior.
“There are groups of young adults that do hang around together and are engaged in criminal activity,” said Jerman. “Does that make them qualify as an organized gang? I don’t think so.”
In February 2014, a large fight at Lindale Mall in Cedar Rapids was recorded with cellphone video. Upon its release and the subsequent arrests, speculation flowed if gangs were involved.
Jerman said two of the city’s recent homicide cases involving younger victims, the 2012 shooting of Latasha Roundtree, 19, and the April 2014 shooting deaths of Quintrell Perkins, 22, and Sierrah Simmons, 20, in a house in the 1700 block of Fourth Avenue SE were not due to organized gang activity.
Local police do have extra support for combating violent criminal activity. In June 2009, the Cedar Rapids Safe Streets Task Force formed, through police, the FBI and the Sixth Judicial District Department of Correctional Services.
“Our focus is on violent criminal enterprises but we also investigative individual violent crimes which violate federal statutes to include bank robberies,” said FBI Special Agent Thomas Metz, who is based in the FBI Omaha office. Metz added that the task force is housed in their facility in Hiawatha.
Amid an active year for detectives in Cedar Rapids, Jerman said tracking weapons and those who cannot possess them legally remains a constant concern.
“Unfortunately, we have seen an increase in the gun violence this year and it has renewed our resolve to address and combat this crime.”
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