Lakeland Police trying to tackle gang problem - WFLA News Channel 8

Lakeland Police trying to tackle gang problem

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Many people in Lakeland say they've had it with gangs.

Neighbors in northwest Lakeland fear for their lives when they walk out their doors. The latest arrest is a 15-year-old who police say is caught up in three separate drive-bys.

8 On Your Side wants to know, how did the area get to this point?

“We may just need more people,” Mayor Howard Wiggs said.

He blames, in part, the 2013 sex scandal that left the department with a shortage of officers who should be protecting residents.

“If we had those 21 positions filled right now do you think we'd be in the same position when it comes to gangs?” 8 On Your Side asked Wiggs.

“I think we'd be much farther down the line at having it solved,” Wiggs said.

Lakeland is at a point where kids in their early teens are openly displaying their gang association on social media. Police are quick to defend their approach on gang violence.

From the street to the office, cops say they're using a combination of crime-fighting tactics, but they don't want to detail them.

“We're not going to reveal all of our techniques but there's also plain clothes personnel deployed in these areas to provide information and take enforcement type actions,” Assistant Chief Mike Link said, in listing all the ways the department is tackling the issue.

“Do you feel comfortable with what the police are doing out there?” 8 On Your Side asked Mayor Howard Wiggs.

“I do feel comfortable,” he said. “Do I say that they're solving the problem? No. Clearly there are things that we can't be everywhere at once. But one of the main things in solving a problem is you first have to recognize the problem.”

The good news is: you will soon see 16 more officers working the streets. They are in training now and will be on the job in the coming weeks.

Copyright 2014 WFLA. All rights reserved.

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