The Hays County Sheriff’s Office (HCSO) says gang activity is on the rise in Hays County. In response, so are law enforcement initiatives to curtail such activities.
In August 2008, the late Sheriff Allen Bridges appointed Sergeant Mike Wood as Gang Task Force Coordinator for the HCSO. In that time, Wood has coordinated the creation of a fully functioning Hays County Gang Task Force including the HCSO, the San Marcos Police Department (SMPD), the Kyle Police Department (KPD), the Texas State University Police Department (UPD), the Hays County Jail, Hays County Juvenile Detention Center, Hays County District Attorney’s Office, Hays County Adult Probation, Hays County Juvenile Probation.
Wood received state-wide recognition as 2009 Peace Officer of the Year by the Texas Gang Investigators Association at their annual conference in Corpus Christi on July 1.
Among the gangs that have begun to move into area, according to the HCSO, are the Sureños, the Bloods, the Crips, MS-13 and Tango Blast.
“We had been receiving intelligence information for some time that the gang suppression efforts of the Austin Police Department and Travis County Sheriff’s Office were resulting in gang members fleeing from our north and moving into Hays County,” Wood said.
Wood said growing numbers of gang-related graffiti postings and increasing numbers of youth wearing gang colors and throwing gang signs in school yards are becoming present.
“Property crimes, thefts and car break-ins in various neighborhoods around Hays County are slowly rising,” Wood said. “These are all signs of a growing gang presence. Gangs need money to further their gangs, so they steal things from businesses and homes, they break into cars and they mark their territories with graffiti.”
Wood said the task force has set up an elaborate data base with information with all the participating agencies.
“We take street and school information from patrol officers and School Resource Officers, probation information, Jail and Detention Center intake information and prosecution information from the DA’s (District Attorney’s) Office and put it into the data base,” Wood said. “This way, we can start tracking some of these gangs, the crimes they are committing and their movement in and around Hays County. We also share this information with other local and state law enforcement agencies around Hays County to help them reduce gang activity and identify gang members in their areas.”
Not only is the data base now in place, Wood said, but the task force has presented many gang prevention programs to community groups and schools.
Now, Wood said, “it’s time to get out and really focus on working the streets. This summer, we started gang suppression efforts in the neighborhoods by adding extra patrols, not only in the county, but in the cities of San Marcos and Kyle. The extra patrols are providing a visible law enforcement presence in the neighborhoods in an attempt to reduce gang-related crimes and identify gang members.”
Wood said citizens are encouraged to call 911 and report gang-related activity to individual police departments and the HCSO. Wood said citizens also can report gang activity to Hays County Crime Stoppers by calling the toll-free tip hotline at 800-324-8477 (TIPS).
“The Gang Task Force and law enforcement can’t be in all places at all times, so it is imperative that citizens take an active part in gang suppression by reporting what they see when law enforcement is not there when these gang activities happen,” Wood said.
For more information about the Hays County Gang Task Force, or if you would like a presentation for your community or civic group, contact Wood at (512) 393-7800.