Aurora combats gang violence with a new special prosecutor

August 25, 2011

(Flickr/Noah Vaughn)
A graffitied symbol for the Disciples on a tree in Chicago, a gang with factions across Illinois.

The city of Aurora, Illinois has gotten a new $60,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Justice to help pay for a special prosecutor who will go after street gangs. He or she will file civil lawsuits against Aurora's known gang members to stop them from gathering or wearing certain colors.

Kane County State's Attorney Joe McMahon said the position will help the police department use new methods to combat gang violence. "They have the ability to make an on-scene arrest, which then can lead to the removal of weapons or illegal street drugs, as opposed to waiting for the gang member to use that weapon or to deal that drug," said McMahon.

McMahon believes the city has done a good job preventing gang activity, but this hire is "another step we can take." 

Aurora doesn't track gang related activity, however, crime records for 2010 show an 11 percent decrease in overall crime from the year before.

"This is certainly not a one-year project. This is a step in a long-term approach to getting gangs to stop expanding in and around the city of Aurora," said McMahon, citing the nearby city of Elgin, which has received a similar grant.

According to the Chicago Tribune, since a 1993 law passed allowing injunctions against against gang members, suits have increased in Illinois, and in the greater Chicago area. The popularity of injunctions in California has prompted the American Civil Liberties Union to become heavily involved in combatting what they see as a racially targeted and ineffective method of reducing gang violence. Ed Yohnka, Director of Communications and Public Policy for the ACLU-IL, said that the issue was not one that had yet been heavily targeted by his branch.