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MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) -
When it comes to catching and convicting those responsible for violent crimes across the region, law enforcement agencies are streamlining their efforts with the formation of the Central Alabama Violent Gang Safe Streets Task Force.
During a press conference Thursday, members of regional law enforcement agencies, the FBI and the U. S. Attorney's Office announced the creation of the group.
"This is the first major step that we have been able to take in trying to make our streets safe," said U.S. Attorney George Beck. "We hope that with this task force with the cooperation of federal, state and local law enforcement and other officials will help prevent future crimes and that is our goal."
By combining their investigative efforts, authorities say they can prevent the duplication of services and better expose those responsible for crimes like drug trafficking, money laundering, alien smuggling, murder, aggravated assault, robbery and other violent offenses.
"We want to take a proactive stance. We want to get out there in the community, we want to identify and target for prosecution those that are conducting this criminal activity," said FBI Assistant Special Agent in Charge Jeannette Williams with the Mobile Division. "One of our focuses will be the neighborhood gangs. Those are the ones that operate in your community, in your cities and within your counties. These gangs are responsible for a large portion of the illegal drug distribution and violent criminal activity that is occurring within the United States today."
The groups are responsible for the criminal activity that officials say led to a vast majority of the 50 homicides Montgomery saw in 2013.
"They're violent and they're dangerous and they need our full attention. They like to associate themselves with larger groups sometimes but we've seen them cross over and get together with other groups to do another criminal activity. They are not the traditional what you think of bloods and crips and strong lieutenants and organizational structure," said Director of Montgomery Department of Public Safety Christopher Murphy. "We had an out of the norm homicide rate last year but the balance is, the vast majority of that were dealing in some other criminal activity and we're fighting that other criminal activity and that's where these resources come together in such a strong way."
Police departments and sheriff's office from across the region- Montgomery, Auburn, Dothan and Elmore County- have assigned an investigator to serve full time on the task force with FBI agents from area offices.
The U.S. Department of Justice will fund overtime, office space, vehicles and other equipment for the officers.
"This allows us a greater focus and to drill down a little deeper into the problem. The nice thing about it, we all are looking for the same people so joining in this effort is going to make us more efficient and help prosecution for the US Attorney. We're going to be sending some of these folks off for a long, long time," said Montgomery Police Chief Kevin Murphy.
Similar task forces have been established in Mobile, Birmingham and Atlanta. There are 160 across the country.
"The term 'gang' can be sensationalized. We're focused on just those groups- those groups that have a common goal of criminal activity whether it's through their neighborhoods or it's through wearing colors, as long as it's a group that has as a common purpose criminal activity. That's what our focus will be," said FBI Supervisory Special Agent Calvin King.
Those in the community with information on violent criminals and gangs should contact the FBI Safe Streets Gang Task Force Members at the Montgomery and Dothan offices of the FBI.