Gang Unit to Absorb Roving Crew

A unit of the Omaha Police Department will be dissolved. The officers are still on the force, but what they will be doing will change. The gang unit will absorb the officers.

In 2008, Omaha Police Chief Eric Buske formed a utility crew and it grew over time.

It involved a couple dozen officers whose assignment could and, often times, would change every night based on crime needs.

The unit targeted hot spots. Maybe they needed to focus on burglaries one night. Maybe they needed to spend time in a neighborhood because of recent violence on another.

In March -- that unit is going away. The gang unit will absorb the crew.

"We only have a certain number of officers so it's important to utilize our resources appropriately," said Omaha Police Chief Todd Schmaderer. "Right now as I analyze violent crime in our community, about half of our homicides have been gang related and quite a few of our felony assaults are gang related so we want to ensure that we streamline our operations and focus on the violent offenders in our community."

At last count, there were 80 separate gangs in Omaha and more than 3,000 individuals associated with the gangs.

The chief says the extra manpower is only part of the equation -- the other is reaching out to the community and building a level of trust so witnesses are comfortable talking with police.

The move won't happen until March because that's when major scheduling changes can occur in the department.

The chief declined to get into specifics of how many officers are in the gang unit.

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