Increased gang activity spurs stronger police presence in Gainesville

GAINESVILLE, Fla. - Police in Gainesville say they've seen a "disturbing rise" in the amount of gang-related activity, specifically in the area of Pineridge.

The area includes the 5700 to the 6200 block of Northwest 23rd Terrace and Northwest 25th Street, dubbed "Pakistan" by residents.

Police presence has been increased in both high profile and covert patrols, according to the police department.

Investigators said multiple large disturbances, mostly involving juveniles, have been reported. They said some of them have involved weapons.

"These instances have caused local residents to fear for their safety and have asked GPD to step up their presence," a news release reads.

Last weekend, teens targeted Toneke Miller and her three young children, one who's autistic.

"They're just tearing the neighborhood up, kicking in doors, busting windows, shooting. I mean, it's bad," Miller said.

On April 20 police responded to a report of juveniles in possession of an assault-style rifle. Officers said they then saw a 16-year-old discard an AK-47 rifle as he fled from police.

On Wednesday officers responded again to the area to reports of homemade bombs, which were manufactured using plastic bottles and have the capability of injuring people nearby. Police said multiple juvenile arrests have been made and police will continue to increase their presence until the issue is resolved.

"Some of our evidence have led us to believe that they were actually being placed in the path of where responding officers would've been coming, so that's kind of scary to us," Officer Ben Tobias said. "We think that they're trying to send a message to us, they're trying to put us in the same fear that they're putting their own neighborhoods in, and that's just not going to happen."

Police Chief Tony Jones has responded to the issue of gang violence in a three-phase approach, which includes prevention, social intervention and suppression. Jones commits himself and the entire department to reducing gang violence, according to the release.

"We will not tolerate this type of youth gang violence," Jones said. "We will not allow these criminal gangs to disrupt our taxpaying residents' happy and safe way of life. This is not just a police issue. Many key players in the community are helping put an end to this type of violence."

"We're getting out into high schools and other areas where the kids are and trying to let them know that there are grave consequences that stay with them in the future for those mistakes they make now," Tobias said.

Kids who are not receptive will be arrested and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.

"We have people who pay taxes and live in this area and want to live comfortably and want to live safely, and when we have these kids who are trying to create fear in the residents around this area, it's just not fair to the people who are actually going out and being productive citizens," Tobias said.

Residents are urged to contact police with any suspicious information. They can make anonymous non-emergency tips by texting keyword GPDFL plus their tip to 274637 (CRIMES). Police urge residents not to utilize text tips but call 911 in the event of an emergency.

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