Round Lake Beach Police Latest to Create Gang Unit
King, Jason, Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL)
Byline: Jason King Daily Herald Staff Writer
Round Lake Beach police are rolling out a new gang crimes unit and a hard-nosed attitude toward the problems gangs bring the village.
The three-man unit is taking a zero-tolerance approach toward gang crimes - from graffiti to violent offenses - with two options in mind: putting gang members in jail or getting them out of Round Lake Beach, said Keith George, the unit's supervisor.
"We're not going to try to rehabilitate these kids," George said. "We're either going to make them go away or put them in jail. We want this town to be a difficult place for them to live in."
Coupled with that approach, George added, is an education component to reach middle school-age children - the age that gangs often target for recruits. The aim is to teach children that joining a gang comes with a steep price.
Round Lake Beach joins several Lake County communities, including Mundelein and Waukegan, with full-time gang units.
The village's get-tough approach follows that of other nearby units, said Mundelein Police Chief Ray Rose.
"If we're all working together, the message is strong and consistent," Rose said. "If there's consistency in the approach to fighting gang crimes, they know it, and we know it."
The gang unit is something Round Lake Beach has sought for years, said Mayor Rich Hill. When Police Chief Doug Larsson was hired last July, one of his duties was to establish such a unit.
"We've had an ongoing problem in the area and we've been able to minimize it to a point. But with a group solely devoted to working on that, it will solve the problem," Hill said. "To ignore a problem won't make it go away. You've got to meet it head on."
The department has handled gang activity with regular patrol officers for years, Larsson said. But establishing the unit now, during the winter months when street gangs aren't as active, gives the department a jump on the summer months.
In addition, George said, the gangs and the crimes they commit have increased in the town of about 25,000 since he began to track them in 1999.
Between then and 2002, gang-related crimes - those committed by gang motivation - increased by 47 percent. They include crimes against people, such as battery and mob action, and against property, such as graffiti and theft. …