READING, Pa. - Federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies are stepping up their efforts to combat gang activity in Berks County following a recent uptick in violence.
Berks County District Attorney John Adams announced Tuesday that members of the county's gang task force will increase their targeted patrols and begin a gang intervention program.
The task force, which was created 13 years ago, is comprised of nearly a dozen agencies, led by the district attorney's office and its detectives along with the county's juvenile and adult probation offices.
Its members will use various methods of enforcement to prevent, deter, and combat violence and obtain intelligence on various gangs in Reading and Berks County, officials said.
"Where you'll have detectives and officers that are involved in this task force, to actually go out and saturate areas during opportune times when we do see an increase in gang activity," said Chief Madison Winchester, Cumru Township Police Department.
Gang task force members said they're hoping to delve more into gang activity and garner information from possible members to try to stay ahead of any potential violent and or criminal activity.
"You never know, we might be able to open up a line of communication with an individual who may be interested in parting ways with a gang," said Winchester. "If we can make inroads with them, that's something that will pay dividends for us."
For those individuals it identifies as being members of gangs and involved in criminal activity, the district attorney's office said it will seek a gang enhancement sentencing recommendation, which will increase their prison sentence.
Also, the task force said it will launch the GREAT (Gang Resistance Education and Training) Program, which targets elementary and middle school-age children who are at risk of joining gangs as well as to develop relationships between police officers and the communities they serve.
"I do believe that the fact that some of the young adults that we are now seeing being involved in some of the violence," Adams said, "the fact that they have no structure, that they don't go to school."
Members of the task force are:
- Berks County Jail
- Pennsylvania State Parole
- Federal Probation Department
- Reading Police Department Cumru Township Police Department
- Central Berks Police Department
- Muhlenberg Township Police Department
- Shillington Police Department
- Spring Township Police Department
- West Reading Police Department
- Wyomissing Police Department
- Pennsylvania State Police
Anyone with information about crimes being committed by individuals or gangs in Berks County is asked to contact Crime Alert Berks County or any member agency of the task force. Officials said they will treat tips confidentially.