ST. CHARLES – After six years of targeting gangs in Aurora, law enforcement officials say they’ve seen a dramatic reduction in the city’s street gang presence and the number of violent crimes.
Kane County State’s Attorney Joe McMahon was joined by Aurora Police Chief Gregory Thomas and First Assistant State’s Attorney Jody Gleason on Tuesday in St. Charles to talk to reporters about Operation First-Degree Burn, a collaborative endeavor that has targeted the gang presence in Kane County, particularly in Aurora.
“There were well over 1,000 gang members back in the day,” Thomas said. “Now there are a little over 300.”
He said the gang problem was at its height in the late 1990s and early 2000s, when the city of Aurora saw as many 26 murders – many of which were gang-related – in 1996 and again in 2002.
In the six years since the operation started, several agencies – including the Kane County State’s Attorney Office, the Kane County Sheriff’s Office, the Aurora Police Department and the Federal Bureau of Investigations – have filed charges in nearly two dozen murder cold cases.
The operation has netted 16 felony convictions, and eight defendants received 19- to 20-year prison sentences, and two more defendants were sentenced to or face life prison sentences.
“We’ve taken a lot of very bad people off the streets for a very long time,” McMahon said.
But McMahon said the work doesn’t stop there.
He said law enforcement officials plan to continue their outreach to service organizations and schools to warn against the ramifications of becoming gang members.
McMahon said a civil lawsuit that was filed in May is one way to stay proactive when it comes to decreasing the street gang presence in Kane County.
On May 24, the city of Aurora filed an injunction against members of the Latin Kings, naming more than 30 members of the gang.
The injunction bars members of that gang from doing multiple activities, such as “standing, sitting, walking, driving, gathering, meeting or appearing anywhere in public view with the Latin Kings,” within the city of Aurora, according to the injunction.
“We continue to have to work through community groups and schools, particularly with late grade-school and middle-school students, to let them know they have other options” besides joining a gang, McMahon said. “That’s how you continue to work with the community.”