Gang Squads

The threat of gangs and gang violence maintained a constant but subdued position on the public’s radar entering the 1970s.  Since his inauguration in 1973, Mayor Coleman Young sought to address the crimes committed by gang members among his overall anti-crime rhetoric.  The publicized murders of Gerald Craft and Keith Arnold by gang members aided Young’s ability to evoke a sense of responsibility in African American communities, (Stauch, 227).  The public, and Young, was becoming particularly concerned about the shifting image of juvenile involvement among street gangs.   In 1973, the Community Youth Services Program (CYSP) is established as a mechanism to encourage youth to develop optimal behaviors. This program is supported by many African American grassroots organizations.   However, in 1975, a series of violent events in Detroit’s east side prompted Young to strengthen his anti-gang policies.  In this year, Mayor Young establishes a police gang unit under the Major Crimes Section.  This group has limited, but targeted jurisdiction.  Characteristically, African American youth were criminalized by the police force for looking anything “suspicious,” (Stauch, 228).  The 1976 Cobo Hall incident culminated in a dramatic expedition of anti-juvenile gang policies.  These tougher policies gained widespread support, extending to politicians and civil rights leaders in African American communities.  Once again, these policies characteristically harbor devastating consequences.

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