Law enforcement target gangs in northwest Iowa

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Law enforcement officials in the Sioux City area have a simple message for gang members in the area: Stay out.

"We know you are here. If you commit a crime, we are going to work together to put you in prison," said United States Attorney Matt Dummermuth.

He spoke last week during a press conference with 10 local law enforcement leaders, including Woodbury County Attorney Patrick Jennings and Sioux City Police Chief Joe Frisbie.

"The people and agencies you see here are all stepping up our effort to crack down on gang crimes," Dummermuth said.

He added that some progress has been made. He cited the case of two Sioux City gang members - 20-year-olds Daniel Hilden and Michael Puente - who pleaded guilty in January to robbing a convenience store in Sioux City in March.

Still, Dummermuth said gangs are active in the area and committing crimes through graffiti, vandalism, drugs, robberies and other violence.

Jennings estimates there have been in excess of 400 gang members in the Sioux City area.

"We're very much happy that the U.S. Government has decided to jump in here with both feet running and handle some of these folks that we do not want in this community," Jennings said.

Since the announcement of an anti-gang initiative in 2005, federal prosecutors have met with federal, state and local law enforcement to form new, or strengthen existing investigation teams. Prosecutors have also considered using federal statutes that either carry potential mandatory minimum sentences or provide for approaches that may not be available now under state law.

"If there is a good state law, we'll go that way. If there is a better federal law, we'll go that way," Jennings said. "The point is to take serious offenders off the streets."

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