Gates, N.Y. - Gates Police say they have always taken a proactive approach to fighting gang activity. Police and town leaders, along with the FBI monitor 3,000 gang members. They know who they are, where they live, what they're doing and what crimes they commit.
Though Town Supervisor Mark Assini said most live in the city, he said some do live in the suburbs and the crimes spill into towns in the community.
Assini confirmed that 21-year-old Johnny Blackshell, Jr., who was charged in connection with the mass shooting on Genesee Street last month, was a known gang member police have been tracking.
Blackshell lived on a quiet cul-de-sac in Chili. His arrest and ties to gang activity were a surprise to his neighbors, many of who told us they were afraid to talk on camera.
Assini said people who don’t think there is a gang problem in Rochester and Monroe County need to acknowledge these gangs not only exist, but can be associated with violent crimes.
He said Gates has a tough approach to get to the gang members before violence occurs.
"The first step is to recognize we have a gang problem here...if you belong to a gang, we are going to make your life miserable. You're not going to terrorize suburban towns...we're coming after you," Assini said.
Assini said he isn't afraid to acknowledge the presence of gangs because he said it's the only way to deal with it.
While these gangs are sometimes referred to as "groups of youth," Assini said he tells it like it is.
"Youth groups aren't people who take out AK-47's and mow down their neighbors...we have sent a strong message to these gangs: We will track you down, we know where you are and who you are, you're not going to get away with it."
Gates Police Chief James VanBrederode said he has always taken a tough approach when it comes to gang activity. He was part of a task force on gang violence when he worked in the Rochester Police Department several years ago. He said gangs aren't anything new; they have just become more violent.
He said his department has learned of planned concerts, gatherings and other events that were gang-related and shut them down before they could happen.
He told 13WHAM News, “We have no tolerance for these gangs. The minute they come to Gates, we are all over it. It's something we've taken seriously for 25 years."