Police: Salt Lake gang members are getting younger and younger

Salt Lake gang members are getting younger and younger (Photo: KUTV)

(KUTV)- Officials with the Salt Lake Area Gang Project say gang members in the greater Salt Lake area are getting younger and younger.

Changing how they recruit members for their gangs, Utah officers are changing their tactics on prevention and enforcement.

Lt. Mike Schoenfeld, with the Unified Police Department, is also the Project Director with the Salt Lake Area Gang Project.

“A lot of homicides in the last year are involving teenage shooting victims with 14, 15, 16-year-old kids. We are seeing a trend towards more young violence,” he said.

Every April, local law enforcement agencies gather with community partners who work with gang members to let them know what trends they are seeing out in the field. Along with younger gang members, Schoenfield says they are seeing a strong shift in how gang members are recruiting.

“You can become a gang member over social media,” Schoenfeld said.

Kris Murphy, the Program Director for Choose Gang Free, says gangs are targeting kids as young as 10-years-old.

5th graders in Granite, Murray, and Jordan school districts are now going through a 10-week program called choose Gang-Free with a refresher course in 8th-grade.

“The research we've looked into shows that's the best way to prevent them from getting into gang activity,” Murphy said.

Murphy said parents can also help.

“Monitoring your kids’ social media is incredible important and not necessarily because your kid is causing the problem but there's so many kids that are being bullied or threatened or recruited by gang,” she said.

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