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Magna residents meet to discuss gang violence as concerns grow

Posted at 9:51 PM, Feb 20, 2018
and last updated 2018-02-21 07:31:18-05

MAGNA, Utah - Magna residents, Unified Police, and the Salt Lake County Sheriff's Office came together Tuesday evening to talk about how to cut down on gang-related crime.

Unified Police said they saw an uptick in drive-by shootings in Magna recently, creating a huge concern in the community.

Lt. Mike Schoenfeld said UPD took reports of five or six drive-by shootings that all ended up being gang-related.

Their detectives pin-pointed the slew of shootings down to five people in two different gang groups.

Lt. Schoenfeld said they made, "four arrests, and in total 11 firearms taken from that group."

Almost all the people they arrested and seized guns from, he said, were teens from Magna.

"We have a lot of juvenile-on-juvenile violence occurring right now-- violent crimes against each other" Lt. Schoenfeld said. "It's pretty alarming."

Residents who showed up to the community town hall on Tuesday expressed the same concern for the rise in gang-related crime, from such a young group of people.

"We have to make it better," said Magna resident Clare Collard. "It's our responsibility."

The message they heard: These kids need support from the community.

Kris Murphy with Choose Gang Free said gangs are heavily recruiting kids as young as 10 years old. She said many of those kids end up choosing a gang lifestyle because it appeals to them, as they develop their identities and figure out who they are.

But the community can play a role in preventing those kids from swapping the playground for guns and violence, and Murphy said Choose Gang Free runs prevention programs in schools as well.

"We need to be willing to provide alternatives to gang activity to kids," she said. "We need to be paying attention to what they're doing. We need to be letting kids know that we're there to support them."

It's all about getting involved and caring, she and Lt. Schoenfeld expressed during the meeting, in order to prevent kids from joining gangs, curb crime and keep Magna safe.

Residents said they're ready to take action to make that happen.

"We need to talk to our legislators," Collard said. "We need to advocate for funding of gang prevention programs."

Magna resident Jessica Mecham grabbed a handful of Choose Gang Free papers and pamphlets to bring back to her elementary school.

She said she learned "things that we can do as a community, to help these kids become more involved so that they have a sense of belonging."

If they can focus on young kids, she said, they can get ahead of the problem and make a difference.

Another tip to tackling gang issues-- Lt. Schoenfeld said residents should call police if they see anything that looks suspicious. He said locals know their neighborhoods best, and they can help police crack down on crime.

Click here to learn more about Choose Gang Free.