Is there a gang problem in Lee County?
To identify gangs as a significant problem in Lee County is arguably inaccurate. While the term may be more perception or media coverage for a moment in time, there is a difference when you begin to look at the presence of known or suspected gang members vs. their criminal impact in some of our communities.
The Sheriff’s Office Gang Investigation Unit has documented 1,300 actual or suspected gang members. To put that in perspective with the overall population of Lee County, this number currently reflects less than 0.2%. Generally, many citizens consider most gang members to be juveniles, but the reality is the overwhelming number of gang members are adults.
In 2010, 107 gang members and associates were arrested for various crimes ranging from burglary to homicide, but percentages of the overall number in crime categories was comparatively low. During 2010 (January-December) known gang members or gang associates were involved in the following: Homicide 12%, Sex crimes 1%, Robbery 9%, Aggravated Assault / Battery 5%, GTA 2%, Burglary 4% . The single-digit percentages remained in the first half of 2011 with only a very slight increase in assaults / battery while homicides had dropped to zero (0).
Long before there were any documented gangs in Lee County, the Sheriff's Office took proactive measures in 1992 to research the insurgence of youth gangs in Dade, Broward, and Collier Counties to prepare for the inevitable. When the first signs of gang activity began to appear, a Gang Unit was formed. It continues today with five full-time positions dedicated to investigations, but greatly enhanced with dozens of highly trained School Resource and Corrections Bureau deputies who are continuously working to identify and assist in gang intervention.
Other efforts to combat gangs include our continuing association with the Florida Gang Reduction Task Force and MAGTF, the Multi-Agency Gang Task Force. Intelligence information is shared with neighboring counties and other law enforcement jurisdictions to further identify, target and pursue prosecution of known gang members.
Gang intervention and eradication is a collaborative effort with citizens, too. You can help if you see gang graffiti in your neighborhood or any sign of gang-related activity by contacting our Gang Investigations Unit at 477-1000. Together we can keep up the pressure and keep down the development of gangs in your neighborhood and all of Lee County.