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Police Grants Article

November 09, 2004

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Mass. Department Gets $200,000 Grant to Study Gang Activity

By Michael Lafleur, Lowell Sun (Lowell, Mass.)

The Lowell, Mass. Police Department, in conjunction with the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University, has received a two-year, $200,000 state grant to study gang activity in the city.

The idea, Police Superintendent Edward Davis said yesterday, is to develop strategies to curb gang violence that target seasoned gang members while intervening with the less-hardened teenagers who gravitate toward them.

"It'll help us battle gang violence in the city by developing smarter methods of dealing with it," Davis said. "We need to drill down into the problem to figure out why it's occurring and not just throw money and people at it without any direction."

Davis said Lowell was chosen for the study because of its diverse demographic composition and the fact that Lowell experiences occasional though not sustained flare-ups in gang activity. He will work with professor Anthony Braga of the Kennedy School, who he said has been studying Lowell since the city experienced several gang-related shooting deaths in the summer of 2002.

"He's really been working with us as an unpaid consultant for over a year now," Davis said.

The money, from the state Executive Office of Public Safety, will allow Braga to focus more energy in the city, finding the causes and related factors in local gang violence, Davis said.

Braga could not be reached for comment yesterday.

In one of the first offshoots of Braga's work to date, announced by City Manager John Cox yesterday during a news conference at City Hall on local anti-crime initiatives being launched within the next month, Lowell police will soon begin a crackdown on motor-vehicle violations throughout the city.

There is a connection between gang shootings and armed gang members traveling in cars, police said. So police will dedicate more officers to stopping, and possibly searching, cars whose drivers violate traffic laws.

"You want to make people that would be inclined toward this type of activity be apprehensive about having a weapon in the car," said Lowell police Capt. William Taylor, the department spokesman.

Taylor said police would not focus on race in deciding who to stop during the crackdown but instead will pull over everyone they see engaged in the "negligent operation of a motor vehicle" in certain parts of Lowell.