Violent gangs in well-to-do neighborhoods increasingPosted: Updated:
PHOENIX - Violent gangs are popping up in the last place you would ever expect: Upper-middle-class Valley neighborhoods.
The parents are doctors and lawyers. Some live in gated communities but police say these educated, privileged high school and college students are just as willing as your average street thug to steal, cheat and even kill.
Twenty-two suspected gang members have been arrested so far and investigators say more arrests are coming. They range in age from 19 to 24 years old. Investigators say they committed crimes in all corners of the Valley and those crimes were becoming increasingly violent.
Investigators say their crimes started by organizing so-called party crew events and selling booze to 14 to 20-year-olds. Roger Vanderpool, a Department of Public Safety director, says, “It's not a safe environment. Bad things happen there."
A group of Valley law enforcement agencies spent the last year investigating the suspected gang members. They are all young men along with one young woman.
Vanderpool says they seemed hooked on money, power, and increasingly violent crime. “Once they began bad things, they kept escalating and escalating."
Investigators say the crimes morphed from underage drinking parties to violent gang activity like home invasions and assaults. Phil McDonald, an attorney, says, “A number of these offenses involve great danger. One person was shot in connection with these events. There are kidnappings."
While some of the suspects might look like they could be in a gang, they certainly did not grow up on the mean streets. Many of the suspects grew up in affluent, gated communities in the north Valley. Vanderpool explains, “They had all the advantages, but made all the wrong decisions."
The suspects were led to jail this week with shackles around their legs, a far fall from their privileged upbringings. The investigation remains ongoing.