In the late 1980s and early 1990s, the City of Aurora, Colorado faced an escalating gang problem: In 1987 there were 50 gang members. By 1989, gang involvement reached 400 and in 1992 upwards of 1,500 were members of gangs. In 1989, the Mayor of the City of Aurora established the Aurora Gang Task Force to address gang-related problems through the coordination of existing city services and the leveraging of additional resources.
The Task Force's strategy is based on the principle that gang-related activities are most effectively discouraged through the offering of a comprehensive set of alternative activities, community involvement, law enforcement and increased parental responsibility. Alternative activities include structured after-school and summer programs as well as community recreation. Midnight basketball leagues, slumber parties, and late night talent shows are designed specifically to occupy would-be gang members in the evening hours, when gang-related activity is at its peak. To bolster the effectiveness and increase participation in these programs the Task Force also conducts outreach, targeting gang members and at-risk youth to encourage program enrollment.
Community involvement and parental responsibility are also encouraged through educational programming. The Task Force disseminates information about gangs to the community through the distribution of an instructional videotape and booklet. It also initiates and expands educational programs for youth and parents on gang issues offered in schools and churches. Enforcement is enhanced by increasing patrol officers, acquiring donated equipment and funding new gang-targeting policing models.
Between 1989 and 1993, the Task Force's membership grew from 15 members to 100 members. Over the same period, alternate activities for youth rose from 8,000 to 21,000. The Task Force cites as its greatest achievement the creation of a replicable model to solve a critical community issue. The transferability of this initiative was affirmed with the creation of a similar Task Force in Jefferson County, Colorado.