WATERBURY, Conn. (WTNH) — Waterbury police said they’ve achieved a “big win” in the battle against gangs, violence, and drugs in the Brass City.
On Friday, FBI agents from the Meriden office and members of the Waterbury Police Department’s Gang Task Force arrested several alleged members of the “960 Gang” — which has been connected to violence in the city over several years.
Chief Fernando Spagnolo told News 8 that the gang has been “responsible for several historic shootings” in the city.
Those arrested over the weekend range in age from 19-23.
Authorities said during raids of their homes, they found 400 bags of heroin, which tested positive for fentanyl.
Spagnolo said the find was extremely disturbing since Waterbury is a city that’s been hit hard by the opioid crisis.
One of the chief’s top priorities is helping to get drugs off his streets.
“We have officers assigned to an FBI Task Force that are working on this violent crime and gang activity that’s happening in the city. These investigations are producing seizures of fentanyl and heroin here in the city of Waterbury.”– Waterbury Police Chief Spagnolo
Brian Hardy is a community activist. He and other members of a community organization called The Ungroup Society are working on a way to get young people out of gang life.
Hardy believes he can make a difference because when he was younger, he says he was exposed to others who got caught up in that lifestyle and says he is very familiar with the trappings of it.
He explained that he is speaking with older gang members in Waterbury, trying to convince them to let younger gang members leave that lifestyle.
“They know there’s really no future, so therefore I go to them, I’m like — ‘why don’t you let that kid go? Why don’t you leave that kid alone? Let us have that kid.’
If we can just get a couple of kids and educate them and give them some different information than what they were given so far then maybe we can start a groundswell of change.”– Brian Hardy, community activist in Waterbury
Hardy says, based on his interactions with gang members, the guns they attain are status symbols that, in their eyes, demonstrate power. They’re also for protection.
“You’re brought up in an environment where force can only be defeated by more force,” Hardy explained.
He also says, in many young people’s minds, gangs may give the allusion of power and a quick way to achieve things in life.
“A lot of these people are out here selling drugs and doing things because they have no other way to feed their family, pay their bills, so the things that they need to do — there’s no jobs in this city, no opportunity in this city, no hope in this city.”– Brian Hardy, community activist in Waterbury
Waterbury Police and other organizations have been trying to steer kids away from gangs by trying to get them involved in more positive community programs like PAL — the Police Activities League and every day after school programs at The Boys and Girls Club.