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Citizens’ group invites community to discuss gangs

Community Discussion On Gangs

Speaker: Steve Thompson, an investigator with the Rochester Police Department and member of the Southeast Minnesota Narcotics and Gang Task Force.

When: 7 p.m. Thursday.

Where: City Of Life Outreach Center, 804 E. Center St. in Rochester.

By Christina Killion Valdez

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ckillion@postbulletin.com

Mike LaPlant keeps one eye on the news of drive-by shootings, assaults and graffiti, and one eye on his neighborhood.

"Right now the action is south of us," said LaPlante, president of the Eastside Pioneers Neighborhood Association in Rochester, adding, "We want to be proactive so that it doesn’t spread."

In November, he asked Rochester police officers to speak about local gang activity at the association’s monthly meeting. Now, he’s opening the discussion up to all Rochester residents.

The Eastside Pioneers Neighborhood Association will host a community discussion on gangs Thursday. The meeting will feature a talk by Steve Thompson, an investigator with the Rochester Police Department and member of the Southeast Minnesota Narcotics and Gang Task Force.

Thompson warns that gang activity is escalating in frequency and seriousness in Rochester.

"Everyone should be concerned about this," Thompson said. "The existence of gangs lowers the quality of life."

LaPlante said he hopes the meeting will address the following questions: What is a gang? What constitutes a gang-related crime? Are gangs connected to drugs and prostitution? Who joins gangs? How many gangs are active in Rochester? How sophisticated are Rochester's gangs? Are there gangs in our schools? What community partnerships or collaborative efforts exist to address the problem of gangs?

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"We want to know what kinds of things to watch for and what types of things to do," he said.

Ultimately, LaPlante would like to see a collaborative effort between residents, schools, community organizations and businesses to curb gang activity, he said.

More about the meeting at www.postbulletin.com/weblinks.

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