Military-Style Outreach Used To Combat Gangs in Massachusetts

Friday, 03 May 2013 02:19 PM

By Michael Mullins

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CBS News' "60 Minutes" is telling how streets gangs in Springfield, Mass., had become such a problem for residents and police alike that local authorities have teamed up with state police to employ outreach methods similar to those used by the U.S. military.

At one point, gangs had become so powerful that members were seen riding around the streets on motorcycles with rifles strapped on their backs, "60 Minutes" reported.

Fearing retribution from local hoodlums, residents often wouldn't report or discuss crimes committed by gang members, reported "60 Minutes."

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Using tactics straight out of an Army manual, State Trooper Mike Cutone, a former Green Beret who served in Iraq, helped to form the trooper's anti-gang unit.

"Insurgents and gang members both want to operate in a failed area," Cutone told "60 Minutes'" Lesley Stahl, referring to the cooperation breakdown between the citizens and authorities. "They know they can live off the passive support of the community, where the community is not going to call or engage the local police."

Among the new initiatives instituted by local and state authorities was an increased engagement with local citizens in an attempt to make them any ally rather than an impediment, said Cutone.

Specifically, police would hold weekly meetings with community leaders much like U.S. service members in Iraq and Afghanistan would sit with village elders.

"We're using the other 99 percent of the population that live there. Winning them over," said Cutone. "They become our eyes and ears . . . Floodgates have opened for criminal information that we can go after now."

According to Springfield Deputy Police Chief John Barbieri, the new approach has already produced results.

"Going door to door. Organizing the neighborhood into a collaboration to report crime, to get involved in solving their own problems . . . That was exactly the kind of program I needed for this neighborhood," Barbieri told "60 Minutes."

In addition to enhanced community outreach, police are also providing assistance to at-risk youth as well as gang members who want to leave the life of crime. In particular, police try to find such youths jobs and put them on a career path.

The new program's implementation was aided by Harvard Professor Kit Parker, a major in the U.S. Army.

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Parker's engineering class at Harvard University has developed new intelligence software for the police after studying the impacts of the counterinsurgency techniques, CBS News reported. Police have used the software to thwart the criminal efforts of gangs, conducting raids and making arrests through the use of sophisticated computer analysis.

In 2012, violent crime in areas of Springfield in which the tactics were employed dropped by 25 percent, while drug offenses have dropped 50 percent according to local police.

The "60 Minutes" episode will air Sunday, May 5 at 7 p.m. ET/PT.

Related stories:

Farrakhan Recruits Chicago Gangs as 'Soldiers' of Nation of Islam

Chicago Gang Members Criticize 'Gang Summit'

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