Gang crackdown surprises Holland residents

Leaders of ESCAPE, a Holland organization dedicated to helping young people get out of gangs, say there are black, Asian and Latino gangs operating in the city. They say members enroll because they are bored, can’t find jobs and can make money in the gang committing minor crimes and dealing drugs. Except for spray painted symbols here and there, they say the gangs are mostly invisible to the general public.

Some Holland residents say they are surprised to learn the city has a gang problem that requires a response by federal, state and local police.

“I see no evidence of any problem,” says Jeffrey Palmer, an officer in a Holland neighborhood association.

“Not aware of anything,” agrees Holland resident Mark Beckman.

Under direction of the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Grand Rapids, heavily armed S.W.A.T. teams descended on a number of Holland houses Thursday morning, searching for gang members.

“[I] looked out the window and the S.W.A.T. van was in our neighbor’s yard,” says Palmer.

“The S.W.A.T. team lined up down the street,” recalls resident Kelley Pasatta. “Hiding behind trees, you know. [There were] lots and lots of police officers.”

The squads of officers arrested an unknown number of suspects for crimes still not disclosed.


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