Montgomery County Executive asks for $850K in funding for new initiative to combat gangs

In an effort to curb surging gang violence, Montgomery County plans to commit nearly $900,000 of additional funds to local law enforcement agencies.

FOX 5 obtained the proposal from County Executive Ike Leggett asking council for $596,920 for the police department and $246,773 for the state's attorney's office.

In the request, Leggett says, "both the Police Chief and State's Attorney have noted an increase in dangerous, and sometimes deadly, gang activity that must be addressed through both enhanced short-term and long-term strategies. It has become clear that additional resources are necessary to tackle this issue."

Montgomery County Council President Roger Berliner says the proposal will pass.

"We will hold a public hearing as we are required to do, and my expectation is, the same day we hold the public hearing, we will act on it and it will pass unanimously," Berliner said.

This comes after at least 18 gang-related homicides in the county in the past two years.

The biggest problem has been MS-13, an international gang from El Salvador. There has been a spike violence in the last few years that has included high-profile murders cases, some involving teenagers.

MS-13 is known for recruiting young people in schools, some kids as young as 12 years old.

There is also the local gang Hit Squad that is based in Montgomery County. A member was convicted this summer of murdering a transgender woman.

Montgomery County State's Attorney John McCarthy has been vocal in calling for more money to beef up his office. He says he wants to have a team going after gang leadership, tracking their social media and trying to stop crimes before they happen.

"They use social media for recruiting and they revel in their membership by putting things like tribute videos up," McCarthy said at a press conference in July.

He went on to say, "We can get enhanced penalties for them under the gang statute, but you have to do your homework, you have to build a case in advance so what we want to do is stop being reactive and start becoming proactive."

This isn't just one-time money since it is going to be used to hire new staff. Berliner says this is expected to be part of the budget going forward.

"If they need more, we will give them more," he said. "This is not an issue that any of us on the county council is going to say no to as long as we feel confident they have a plan."

This additional money would come out of Montgomery County's general fund reserve account. Berliner said there is ample money in that fund, and that it is intended to be used for public policy issues like this.