Is gang violence on the rise across the Salt Lake Valley?

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah (ABC4 Utah) - Two drive-by shootings in Kearns and two shootings in West Valley City this week have Utahns asking "What has caused the recent rise in gang violence"? Police say the gang activity has been around for years but the violence has recently gone to a new level.

"They've introduced guns and weapons into their dispute and that's really what escalated the problem," said Lt. Brian Lohrke, Unified Police Department. 

Lt. Lohrke addressed the problem Thursday on Good Morning Utah and told Emily Clark that there have been numerous shootings in the Kearns area over the last couple of weeks that have all been gang-related. 

Following Tuesday night's drive-by shooting and crash, which led to the death of two innocent people in Kearns, Lohrke said additional police officers have been assigned to city.

"Just in Kearns we tripled the amount of force we had on the streets with officers, detectives and other support staff, to try and show the Kearns community that we do care and we want to confront this problem."

Unified Police aren't just adding officers to the streets to solve the problem, they're attacking from two additional front -- education and enforcement.

"These are kids. We don't want to see them get in trouble. We don't want to see them spend their lives in jail. We want to try to educate them before they get into the system," Lohrke said.

The education comes from a program called Choose Gang Free. According to the website, it's a "resource provided to you by The Salt Lake Area Gang Project for information about gang prevention and intervention across the Wasatch front." Through the program, community members and parents educate each other on ways to prevent youth gang involvement and how to get help.

"Being a parent myself also, you're kind of naive as to what your child is exposed to. Not only at school or when your eyes are off of them, but what is on TV and what our society -- how we glorify this gang culture and a violent culture. We have to be more aware as to what our children are exposed to," explained Lt. Lohrke.

The Kearns community along with Lohrke and other officials from the Unified Police Department plan to hold a meeting at Kearns High School Thursday night to address the gang violence. 

That meeting takes place at 6:30 p.m. 


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