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Exclusive Gang Unit Ride Along: How El Paso Police are fighting violent gang crime in El Paso

The violent crime associated with gang activity in the city of El Paso has decreased drastically over the past 20 years, said El Paso’s Gang Unit Sergeant.

ABC-7 was given an exclusive ride along with a Gang Unit to see how first hand how the unit operates and learn about the changing gang trends in El Paso.

Sergeant Patrick Natividad told ABC-7 the Gang Unit works tirelessly to keep criminals off of the streets. “When we get called out, it’s usually for a major incident. We are usually awake for more than 24 to 36 hours because that’s the way we work our drive-by shootings or any of our major cases,” said Natividad.

Natividad said movies that were made back in the 1990s – such as Colors and Boys in the Hood – showcased gangs and street violence. He feels those movied influenced people during that era.

“Those movies elevated the gang status that came out in the 1990s. I think made a lot of people buy into that kind of culture and I think it did have a lot of influence,” the police officer said.

According to Natividad, there were about 350 drive-by shootings each year in El Paso during the 1990s. In response to the high level of drive-by shootings, the El Paso Police Department Gang Unit created a special response team to deal with that type of crime.

“Since the creation of the unit back in the 1990s – and the continued efforts of the police department and all the supporting agencies – we’ve been able to reduce that. I think now we can count the number of drive-by shootings to under 15 a year,” said Natividad.

The city of El Paso also added the TAG Anti-Gang Center in 2017. This center also helped to reduce crime in El Paso.

Natividad said that TAG is not a task force in and of itself. It is a task multiplier that houses many different agencies like the El Paso Police Department, The Texas Department of Public Safety, the DEA, FBI, ATF, Department of Homeland Security and many more agencies. Natividad said they all work together to help fight crime in El Paso.

The top three types of crime Natividad said he sees from gangs in El Paso are related to assaults, property crime, and drugs.

Natividad said that even though the gang members most likely get their hands on drugs smuggled from Mexico, he does not feel there is a direct connection between the Mexican drug cartels and El Paso street gangs.

“Everybody knows that a lot of the drugs do come from south of the border, so obviously, somebody has to have a connection somewhere. I wouldn’t say our gangs directly work with the cartels, but they do have some connections,” said Natividad.

Natividad said that his number one priority is to make sure all of his officers go home safe every night to their families.

He also said the different types of gangs they see here in El Paso are Street Gangs, graffiti gangs, outlaw motorcycle gangs and even prison gangs.

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