Q&A: Denver DA Mitch Morrissey Part 2

In the first installation of the discussion with Denver’s DA, Morrissey spoke on the latest local gang raid and whether or not Denver had a gang problem.

In this part, Morrissey discusses the best way to tackle gangs, how Denver is doing it, and funding to make it possible.Q: In your opinion, what is the  best way to neutralize gangs and their activities?

A: You can’t just wait until you have a gang problem. What you have to do is you have to take a three-pronged approach. You have to have strong prevention programs, you have to have intervention programs for those folks just staring towards the gang life, and you have to have strong sanction policies like you saw yesterday and like you’ll see when these folks process through the system and start getting sentenced to the penitentiary.

Gangs indoctrinate kids, they bring people to them, and you have to approach them in more than just arresting these guys. That won’t help you. You have to make sure you’re involved in prevention, you have to have strong intervention policies and programs, you have to sanction those members that are engaged in trafficking guns, getting involved in violence that spills out into the streets.

Q: Do you think that Denver living up to that, as far as the prevention goes?

A: You know, Denver has done a good job of that in the past. There have been instances where we have really had the economy and funding to approach gangs. We were getting a lot of support from the federal government in grants. Those types of things have gone away as economy of the state, as the economy of the city…there was a period of time when the economy was such that it was hard to do these programs and intervention policies, but now that everybody is seeing that when you’re not paying attention to that you have to put those coalitions back together. We’re doing that.

Q: What is Denver’s gang task force, and what does it do?

A: The local one is something I requested additional funding for in my office to be able to be a bigger part of the metro gang task force and I was able to do that with the funding that was involved. But that task force involves right now the Denver Police Department, the Aurora Police Department, and my office. So…it’s not really Denver, but that’s what the papers are calling it. Don’t leave out the very important work by Denver police, Adams county and Arapahoe county and Aurora police officers.

What do you think about the decision to not take private donations for Denver’s gang task force?

A: I have a commitment from the Mayor and City Council that they will find the funding to keep the task force going, and I have that from the city government. The fact that a private foundation and private donors were willing to step up and partner with the city, to help with this issue, I wanna thank them for those offers…we could certainly use that money for the prevention and intervention side of this thing I’ve talked about already. There’s a long history of teaming with foundations, getting grants, and getting donations-those kinds of things that do diversion, intervention, and prevention in the city of Denver. That’s nothing unusual or new, so if those foundations want to do that and they’re all on board then we’ll welcome them as partners.

Erin Rosa was born in Spain and raised in Colorado Springs. She is a freelance writer currently living in Denver. Rosa's work has been featured in a variety of news outlets including the Huffington Post, Democracy Now!, and the Rocky Mountain Chronicle, an alternative-weekly in Northern Colorado where she worked as a columnist covering the state legislature. Rosa has received awards from the Society of Professional Journalists for her reporting on lobbying and woman's health issues. She was also tapped with a rare honorable mention award by the Newspaper Guild-CWA's David S. Barr Award in 2008--only the second such honor conferred in its nine-year history--for her investigative series covering the federal government's Supermax prison in the state. Rosa covers the labor community, corrections, immigration and government transparency matters. She can be reached at erosa@www.coloradoindependent.com.