WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) – The gang unit for the Wichita Police Department is taking additional steps to help young people be aware of their status on the “gang list.”
Letters were sent out by certified mail to parents and guardians of 74 juveniles on the gang list. The gang unit/felony assault section at Wichita Police Department is headed by Lt. Jeff Gilmore.
KSN learned that the Wichita Police Department’s gang unit originally set out to send 100 letters, but in the 3-4 months it took them to track down good addresses for these juveniles’ parents and guardians, a quarter of them turned 18 making it illegal for WPD to contact their parents.
When asked if WPD would be contacting gang members 18 and older by letter, Lt. Jeff Gilmore said:
“Our documented gang members in the community are so mobile and it is extremely hard to track them down to gather addresses.”
Local non-profit founder Dave Gilkey of Rise Up For Youth spends much of his time mentoring young people involved in gang activity. He says the letters are a positive start to combat the growing issue.
“It’s gonna be bad before it gets good and some parents are going to be upset just knowing that their child was on the gang list and didn’t have any idea,” Gilkey said.
According to Gilkey, gang activity goes in waves. It’s currently been up a bit since the start of summer.
“But it doesn’t matter when those waves come, we still have to be ready to deal with the situation at hand,” Gilkey said.
“We sent these letters out as of two days ago. In these letters, we are asking parents and guardians of these juveniles to please contact us. We would like the opportunity to set down with them and to explain why their child has been documented as a gang member in the community,” said Lt. Jeff Gilmore. “We would like to explain how they no longer can be a documented gang member in the community.”
KSN is told there are 10 criteria for getting on the list, and members on the list must meet three of the ten.
For local activist and poet Desmond Bryant, he didn’t originally know he was on the gang list until he had been on it for some time. It was at that point he began taking steps to get his name off.
“How can you wipe that slate clean? Is it, community service? You know, is it giving back in the community? What would it take you know?” Bryant said of the questions he asked of police.
Bryant came off the list in September of 2016. He, along with many other community advocates and Wichita Police Department, are wanting to ensure that the right people are on the list and the wrong people are given the chance to get off. He called the letters a “great start.”
Along with Wichita Police Lt. Jeff Gilmore, Chief Gordon Ramsay and community members Lamont Anderson, Robert Moody, Tadonne Neal, Charlotte Wilrich and Brandon Johnson, Bryant is hoping this group effort starts a positive momentum.
“Essentially, it’s a letter to notify them to hopefully get them to engage with the police department in order to get that young person off the list. If they do actually deserve to be on there and they’ve been heavily involved in gang activity, there’s still another way to work with the department to find some ways to get some community support to hopefully go inactive and finally get off that list,” Johnson said.
Those individuals who received a letter are encouraged to sign for the letter and respond.