NAMPA -- Most of us who've lived in the Treasure Valley for the last decade remember the gang problem that plagued the area for years.
It was especially rampant in Canyon County.
Nampa Police says the violent gang crimes have decreased, but so have the resources allotted to tackling the issue.
We wanted to learn more about where the gang issue stands in the city of Nampa today compared to a decade ago and what the police department is doing about it.
We found out the problem definitely still exists, but many things have changed.
"The two major ones we deal with in Nampa are our Nortenos, or north side gang members, and our Sorenos. So our north-siders are wearing the color red and affiliate with the number 14. Our Sorenos are wearing blue and affiliate with 13," Nampa Police Sgt. Jason Cantrell said during a ride-along on Friday.
Rewind to the late 1990's and early 2000's when there was an influx of gangs into Nampa and Caldwell. Then, cue the Metro Violent Crimes Task Force and 'Street Sweepers'. It is made up of local law enforcement and federal agencies like the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, and the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA).
"They were trying to be a force multiplier," Sgt. Cantrell said. "They really got to see the same officers work as a network in cooperation all the time."
Through that, Cantrell says gang members were slapped with harsher sentences.
Nampa police also formed a gang unit in the early 2000's, which was to add more officers on the streets who were solely dedicated to eradicating the problem.
Then, the economy tanked and Cantrell says officers couldn't just focus full-time on one thing.
"The officers are still here. It was really when the bottom fell out and the money crunch," he added. "Gangs really kind of went more covert and so not as prevalent, graffiti was down, gang violence was down, but we had other problems."
In present day, Cantrell says they're not seeing the widespread gangs and gang problem like they did back in the early 2000's. But the problem does still exist.
"The graffiti, drive-by shootings, the aggravated battery assaults, the intimidation," Cantrell said. "We know houses or certain areas of town where we see more gang members."
But now, gang activity is becoming more overt again.
"We see more people wearing colors," Cantrell added. "If we have gang members, we're gonna have problems."
Cantrell says the extreme violence isn't happening nearly as much as it used to, like the drive-by shootings and homicides.
"Is that because the gang members are in prison? I would say yes. As well as the constant enforcement of officers and the laws that deal with gangs."
Sgt. Cantrell says gang crime goes in waves, depending on weather, specific fights and conflicts that might occur on the street, and who's in prison. But now, some gang members' sentences are up, and they're starting to come back into the community.
There are gang specialists and detectives still at the Nampa Police Department. They assist with calls that are gang-related, but not to the extent they used to.
"It depends on the crime... Now that we don't have a full-time gang unit, it's if we can," Sgt. Cantrell told KTVB. "When we don't have it we just don't know all the stuff we could have stopped by having the gang unit."
When there's an increase in gang activity or an investigation underway, officers do still go out in full force and hit the streets to patrol and enforce, which typically results in a take-down.
Cantrell says the department is looking at whether they should try to get the full-time gang unit back up and running, but that ultimately depends on budgeting and what city leadership and police command staff decide.
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