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Gang activity keeps district's attorney's office busy, hundreds of cases

LAS VEGAS - Bold, brazen and violent crimes like the one that claimed the life of an innocent 11-year-old girl earlier this month has gang violence on the minds of many in the Las Vegas valley.

Over the past few weeks, 8 News Now has been talking with local leaders and law enforcement about the uptick in gang crimes.

But just how bad is the problem and where are the offenders coming from?

The Clark County District Attorney says there are 600 gangs in the Las Vegas valley with around 12,000 gang members.

Those numbers continue to go up but what's changed is who is involved and what crimes they're committing.

"Last year, we had almost 500 cases," said Clark County District Attorney Steve Wolfson.

He says recent gang activity in Clark County is keeping his office busy.

"In 2018, we're on track to reach 2017 levels, so our numbers are up."

So much so, he has a so-called "gang team" that does nothing but gang prosecutions.

"That just shows you how prevalent the problem is that I have to have a team of lawyers to address the gang situation here in Las Vegas," Wolfson said.

The valley has seen a surge in shootings in November. Some have been officially linked to gang activity, including the death of an innocent 11-year-old girl. So, where are these gangs coming from?

"We're seeing about one out of three of our prosecutions involving somebody from California," he said.
"There's a continuing influx of gang members from California, and other states as well. Tennessee, Texas."

When it comes to local gangs, what's different is how young these gang members are, some as young as 14 and how they operate.

"Now we see hybrid gangs, where members from two or three different gangs are forming their own little gang, and that's something new," Wolfson said.

Also new is the kind of crimes they're committing.

It's becoming a familiar trend in Judge William Voy's courtroom.

"We used to see more gang on gang crime, we're seeing gang related-crime but involving folks that are obviously not gang related, with the home break ins, the robberies that we're seeing in the streets," said Judge William Voy, Clark County Juvenile Court.

DA Wolfson says plenty of gang members are being brought to justice. The problem is there's plenty more to replace them.

"Although we're effectively prosecuting and convicting and incarcerating many of these gang members, there's this continuing influx of new members, so it's almost a Catch-22."

Wolfson says the DA's office, along with local police departments, are trying to come up with new programs to better address gang activity. That includes a call-in program, where gang members on probation are encouraged to stay out of trouble.

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