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Glass City Gangs: A WTOL 11 Investigation

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TOLEDO, OH (Toledo News Now) -

Gang violence in the Glass City has some Toledoans living in fear.

"[It is] Terrifying," said one Toledo mother. "I just really want to get out of Toledo and try to find somewhere where's there's less drama and less gang violence."

Toledo Police have added officers to the gang task force, and say that increased manpower is getting results.  The task force made around 1,300 arrests in 2010, 2,600 in 2011and nearly 4,000 in 2012.  Police say they are getting more guns off the streets than ever before as well.

"We are definitely recovering and confiscating more guns than we have in years past.  Each year we continue to increase that number," said Lt. Ed Bombrys, Commander of the Toledo Police Gang Task Force.

Bombrys says some of the gangs Toledo Police are targeting include the Smith Park Gang on the South End, the 900 Boys on Belmont and Avondale, the Cherrywoodz near the Cherrywood Apartments, the Manor Boys near the Moody Manor Apartments, the "Stickney 33" at Stickney and Manhattan, and the Page Boys on Page Street.


INTERACTIVE MAP: Toledo Gang locations


Police are not the only people trying to solve the Glass City's gang problem, though.  Willie Knighten, a former gang member himself, works with The Ridge Project.  The organization goes in to jails and neighborhoods hoping to convince gang members to change their lives.


MORE INFO: The Ridge Project


"I know I was a beast.  I know it," said Knighten, who served 13 years in prison for a murder he says he did not commit. "I slept in my [bullet proof] vest and slept with my gun with me because of the things I was doin' out here."

Knighten says it is that experience that helps him convince gang members a better life is possible.

"If I can change and the other guys that I consider as tough as I was, even tougher, can change a lot of these guys out here that's playin' gangster - oh, absolutely they can change," said Knighten.

Captain Brad Weis, who ran the Toledo Police Gang Task Force for 8 years, says TPD is working to reinforce that point.

"The main message is the violence is not going to be tolerated within the city," said Weis. "You're choosing the wrong direction.  There's a lot better issues, a lot better ways to make your life better."

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