FARMINGTON -- TV newscasts are often peppered with reports of gang violence leading to shootings, sometimes even death. Fortunately for Davis County residents, those cases are usually dealing with somewhere else. Such as a case within the last week involving several Ogden young people and a shooting in a relatively quiet residential area.
"We don't really consider it a gang problem," said Det. Ty Berger, who deals with gang-related issues as part of his job at the Davis County Sheriff's Office.
"We do have gang activity that has continued to occur, and for all intents and purposes, will continue," he said.
But it's not of the volume or visibility often seen in neighboring Salt Lake or Weber counties.
"The frequency and severity is much different than traditional gang activity in other areas," Berger said.
He cited several reasons for a lower level of gang activity, including an overall reduction from 15 or so years ago.
"The same factors that drive the crime rate in any community, the education of the populace, economic status" are among underlying factors that can help gauge the expected rate of gang activity, Berger said.
"In Davis County we typically have more educated people, the unemployment rate is extremely low here, as is poverty. Most of our residents have come from a traditional two-parent household.
"That has a lot to do with it," he emphasized.
But there are still some gangs functioning in the county.
"Our gangs for the most part I would consider to be more influenced by the media, music, or by the movies," he said. "It's more of a portrayal of an image than any hard-core, front-line street gangs."
There is some California influence, to be sure, but Berger said, "I think a lot is mimicked by how our young, impressionable school-aged kids perceive things," he said.
"It's how they act, a portrayal of an image they want to project, wearing the bandannas and low riders. It's not so much who they are affiliated with, but a desire to act out what (others) say," Berger continued.
The general change occurred about 15 years ago, he said.
"That was when the gang problem was what I would consider at its peak. We had a multi-jurisdictional task force (made up of city, county, school district officials) to combat the gang activity that was going on," Berger recounted.
"They not only made an educational effort, but suppression efforts were in a very high, visible role, on the street," he said of the gang task force.
"This task force was pretty much able to dismantle the two (main) gangs, primarily, that we had in the county.
"By prosecuting them in court, getting convictions, sending what the gang officer would refer to as the OG (original gangster) to jail, it fragmented these two high-profile street gangs.
"Without leadership, kids mostly just acted out," he said. "But the criminal activity associated with that has significantly dropped. It (crime level) hasn't recovered. Most of the people that are on our gang list, or meet the criteria of gang membership, are affiliated with gangs outside Davis County."
Part of that success at keeping the level of gang activity down may have to do with strong partnering efforts, particularly with the school district. That will be explored in the next article.