Police say 21 local gang members are off the streets and crime is down because of it. St. Joseph County Prosecutor Mike Dvorak credited several area police agencies Wednesday and awarded six South Bend Police officers for their efforts.
The specific gang police targeted is called "Cash Out Boyz."
In Spring 2011, officers noticed a trend in robberies, home invasions, burglaries and murders in South Bend. The department dedicated five officers to work together with other departments and the prosecutor’s office to solve dozens of cases and get the Cash Out Boyz off the streets.
“What the public needs to know is that several times they’ll take and address issues and question what we may or not be doing,” said Detective Sgt. Gene Eyster. “And a lot of times, those are things we can't divulge although behind the scenes we are addressing them.”
Eyster is one of six detectives who worked many hours behind the scenes, both on and off the clock, to connect more than 100 assaults, 50 burglaries, 40 narcotic violations, 30 armed robberies and 20 weapons violations.
“We all decided if we were going to make any headway in this area regarding the crimes that were being committed here, we had to work together. There had to be information sharing (among different police agencies), there had to be regular meetings,” said Capt. Brian Young.
That teamwork between local police agencies, the prosecutor's office, ATF and FBI put many of the Cash Out Boyz in custody.
Wednesday, a judge sentenced Kevin Burrell to 111 years in prison for shooting two people at a house party on Van Buren Street in 2011. The judge gave him a 35-year sentence enhancement because the crimes were committed in affiliation with a gang.
“These officers not only established the identity of Cash Out and its members, they linked those members to the crimes they otherwise might have gotten away with,” Dvorak said.
Chief Deputy Prosecutor Ken Cotter wouldn’t say how many Cash Out Boyz members might still be on the streets, but he’s confident the hard work is paying off.
“The guts, for lack of a better phrase, of Cash Out Boyz has been taken out. The activity and the crimes that these individuals were committing have reduced dramatically because of their actions,” said Cotter.
Officers knew about the ongoing Cash Out Boyz investigation during community meetings with the public last year, Cotter said, but couldn’t talk about it because they knew the gang members could go into hiding or threaten key witnesses if they knew police were looking for them.