Police chief pushes anti-gang programs

By Paul Brizz

DeKalb Police Chief Don Berke got the city council’s green light Monday night to push ahead with his plan to get tough on alleged gang activity in DeKalb.

The council and police department will continue to fight the growing gang problem by sponsoring a gang-awareness program at DeKalb High School. All city council members will attend.

Berke’s anti-gang awareness program for area students resulted from a press conference last Wednesday on gang crime in DeKalb.

The meeting was designed to “orientate the community toward an awareness,” Berke said. “The problem is not out of control yet.”

Berke met with anti-gang officials from Rockford and Chicago to discuss the current problem with gangs in DeKalb.

“Currently, we have reports there are 50 people affiliated with gangs in DeKalb,” Berke said. “These 50 people make up about four different gangs,” he said.

“I would be naive to say they (gangs) don’t exist,” said 1st Ward Ald. Amy Polzin. “There are rumors out there. People should be aware, not paranoid.”

So far, DeKalb Police confiscated six guns on the street, Berke said.

“We have made four arrests, half of those arrests being juveniles,” Berke said.

At the recent Cornfest festivities, there were “minimal problems” reported, all of which the police handled, he said.

“There were some gang members from out of town, but they were not grouped,” Berke said.

In light of these arrests and the knowledge of gang activities in DeKalb, the police are asking for help from the community people to fight this problem. “We cannot do it ourselves,” Berke said.

“If people see graffiti, they should be sure to call the city,” said 7th Ward Ald. Jordan Kagan. “If they don’t, it tends to have a snowball effect.”

Kagan said he does not see the gangs as a big problem yet, but “it could become one.”

“DeKalb is a place for families to live not for gangs,” he said.

Some anti-gang programs already are in effect in DeKalb, like clothing restrictions at the area schools.

Because some items of clothing signify gang membership, the DeKalb schools have ordinances allowing students to only wear certain clothes and to not wear others, Berke said.

The gang awareness meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, Sept. 17, at 7 p.m. at DeKalb High School, 1515 S. Fourth Street.

Currently, we have reports there are 50 people affiliated with gangs in DeKalb.”