Budget cuts may hit gang task force

Proposed state budget cuts could eliminate the 8-year-old state's gang task force, which could affect Mohave County.

The multi-agency task force, Gang Intelligence Team Enforcement Mission, has been funded by the Arizona Department of Public Safety since1994.

GITEM annual budget of $5.22 million could be slashed in a series of budget cuts to reduce the deficit.

GITEM is comprised of a Kingman Police Department detective, two Bullhead City detectives, two DPS officers and a Mohave County Sheriff's Office detective.

Because of county budget cuts and vacancies in the department, the sheriff's office pulled its lone detective from GITEM several months ago.

The detective is now back on patrol duty, spokesman Jarrod Lyman said.

After a meeting last week, the DPS announced beginning Jan.

1 that it would no longer fund the salaries of city police officers assigned to GITEM.

Kingman's detective, however, would still be assigned to eradicating graffiti and gang enforcement, police Chief Larry Butler said.

DPS will still provide a vehicle, equipment and its intelligence network, but the Kingman Police Department detective will focus on gang activities in Kingman alone.

In the past, GITEM officers traveled anywhere in Mohave County, Butler said.

Butler also talked with Mohave County Sheriff Tom Sheahan about the possibility of forming a gang task force focused only on Kingman gangs.

"I can't let this program go away," Butler said.

Butler said that gang activity in the Kingman area has not changed much in recent years.

However, many parents of gang members, especially from Southern California, sometimes send them to live with their grandparents or other relatives who live in the Kingman area.

GITEM, which has about 110 detectives from 47 local agencies statewide, is able to work in any jurisdiction throughout the state.

The task force has a three-prong approach in combating gangs: zero tolerance enforcement; training other law enforcement agencies, parents, teachers and juveniles; and tracking gang activity and predicting gang crimes.