January 18, 2007 7:13 AM
Denver gangs: 'domestic terrorism'
The Denver police gang unit's caseload has increased 83 percent since 2001, report Daniel J. Chacon and Bianca Prieto.
While the figures don't include homicides, Chief Gerry Whitman said about one-third of the city's 58 homicides last year were tied to gangs.
In Denver, attention to gangs has been heightened in the wake of the drive-by shooting death of Broncos player Darrent Williams and the suspected gang connection.
The latest police estimate - from 2003 - said there were 220 gangs with 14,000 members in Denver.
Chief Gerry Whitman, while acknowledging that Denver has a "considerable" gang problem, wouldn't tie the Williams murder to gangs, although two gang members have been linked to the case, reports Charlie Brennan.
"I'm not going to say it's gang-related," Whitman told members of an ad-hoc anti-gang consortium that included several Denver Broncos team representatives.
Despite Whitman's remarks, there was open acknowledgment by others at the meeting that Williams' death was prompting renewed community scrutiny of gang activity.
The 1998 Chevy Tahoe linked by witnesses to the Williams case is owned by Brian Kenneth Hicks, a 28-year-old Crips gang member who was in custody on unrelated charges when Williams was shot.
Willie D. Clark, the 23-year-old Denver man technically in custody on an alleged parole violation but considered a person of interest in the Williams case, is also a Crips member, according to gang experts.
Dave Krieger says the silence of leading pro athletes on the subject of gangs isn't helping the problem.
In fairness, today's players support or maintain charitable programs for a wide variety of causes. Many have their own charitable foundations. But when it comes to speaking out against gangs, the silence is deafening.
Some of that is a conflict between past and present. Players who grew up in tough urban neighborhoods couldn't help but have friends in gangs. Turning their backs when they make it is considered selling out.
Various athletes and organizations have pledged to raise money for Williams' children. It makes you wonder if they could be brought together in a larger expression: a Darrent Williams Community Center, a bigger budget for Open Door, something.