Montgomery County Executive working on plan to combat gang violence

Montgomery County is planning aggressive new steps to combat gangs, with the county executive confirming Wednesday he will ask council for hundreds of thousands of dollars for a new gang initiative.

Montgomery County Executive Ike Leggett said the plan should be finished next week. He couldn't say exactly how much money he will be requesting, but that he expects it to be less than $2 million.

Leggett said he wants to hire new employees at the police department and Montgomery County State's Attorney's Office.

"We have done a great deal in terms of beefing up our public safety, positive youth initiatives and a variety of programs to address (gangs), but I think given what we have seen in the last couple of months, we need to go back and re-double those efforts," Leggett said.

He said one focus will be targeting gang members on social media.

"They may be giving some heads up and some indication of a potential crime and engagement in corrupt activities, and colluding online," he said. "But we do not have and have not had as robust of an effort to evaluate that."

Just last week, Montgomery County State's Attorney John McCarthy called for more resources to fight gangs, citing that there have been 18 homicides linked to gang members in the last two years, and about a quarter of the current jail population identify as gang members.

"We need to change our focus on how we investigate gang crimes," McCarthy said. "We can no longer wait until the body falls in the street."

McCarthy said he needs additional staff to go after gang members.

"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 and say, 'What we want to do is stop being reactive and start becoming proactive,'" McCarthy said.