Poor economy leads to rise in gang activity

Reported by Colleen Wells email
Posted by Kate Oatis email

TOLEDO (WTOL) - Toledo Police continue to hunt for the person who shot and killed a 19-year-old in east Toledo last week. They are focusing on gangs in both east and south Toledo.

Toledo gangs are not few and far between, according to Toledo's gang unit, which says there are 30 gangs in the city with a total of about 2,000 members.

That membership needs to grow for the gangs to survive, so gangs look for members among regular everyday kids, including those who play league baseball, says Lt. Brad Weis, head of Toledo's gang unit.

Evan, one regular everyday kid from east Toledo, says he's been approached by gang members.

"Yeah, I've been asked to get in one, but I told them no and walked away. I'm not that kind of kid," Evan said.

But Evan, a seventh grader, also acknowledges that sometimes, joining a gang is tempting.

"You don't know what's going to happen. If you're walking around that someone comes up and starts punching you. You have to always protect yourself around here."

Scott Mathena is Evan's baseball coach in the P.A.L. program. The program's goal is to keep kids busy so they don't join a gang.

"I do believe there's a gang problem in Toledo," Mathena said.

Weis says gangs were a big problem in the 90's but seemed to even out. Now he says a slow economy may be behind a resurgence with recruiting starting in middle school.