Just over a year after the arrest and prosecution of 36 members and associates of the Hilltop Crips, 34 of the defendants have been convicted and sent to prison for a variety of crimes, including conspiracy, attempted murder, robbery, and drive-by shooting, according to Pierce County Prosecutor Mark Lindquist.
This was the first time in Washington the conspiracy statute was used to prosecute a street gang.
“I can now say our gang sweep was a major victory for the community,” Lindquist announced at a press conference in the Pierce County courthouse Tuesday. “We accomplished our two main goals. First, we convicted 34 gang members and associates who are serving a total of 326 years in prison. Second, even more importantly, we’ve dramatically reduced gang violence in our community.”
According to Lindquist, of the three dozen defendants originally charged, one was referred to the U.S. Attorney’s Office, one was dismissed on a deputy prosecutor’s motion based on a ruling by a state judge, and the remaining 34 defendants were either convicted at trial or pleaded guilty. The defendants who went to trial received an average sentence of more than 22 years in prison.
Lindquist formed the Gang Unit in 2009 to respond to a rise in gang violence. The unit included members of the Prosecutor’s Office, the Tacoma Police Department, the FBI, the South Sound Violent Crimes Task Force, the Department of Corrections, the Lakewood Police Department and the Pierce County Jail. Safe Streets and Congressman Norm Dicks, who helped finance the Gang Unit in the Prosecutor’s Office through a grant, were also involved. After the highly publicized sweep of the Hilltop Crips in February 2010, the number of gang-related crimes dramatically dropped. In 2008, the Prosecutor’s Office charged 531 gang related crimes. By the end of 2010, that number declined to 260, a reduction of more than 50 percent, and gang-related crimes are still declining in 2011.