Local law enforcement works help discourage gang activity - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Local law enforcement works to discourage gang activity in Waterloo

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WATERLOO (KWWL) -

Local law enforcement agents are working with the United States Attorney's Office to combat gang-related and violent criminal activity in the Cedar Valley.

In July, the U.S. Attorney's offices filed federal gun charges against six Waterloo men, and a Cedar Rapids judge recently handed down lengthy prison sentences for two other Waterloo men convicted of similar charges.

Waterloo Police Sergeant Matt McGeough has led the Violent Crime Apprehension Team, known as VCAT, since its formation in 2010. The team is charged with infiltrating gangs and investigating dangerous criminals in the Waterloo area.

"Who's feuding with who, who's carrying the guns. Who's doing the burglaries, stealing the guns," said McGeough.

In just two years, VCAT members have made their presence known in the community.

"Last 27 months we've seized 83 guns," McGeough noted.

He said, these are guns you certainly don't want in the wrong hands.

"A lot of them are sawed-off shotguns, high-powered handguns, assault-style weapons. Pretty serious guns," said McGeough.

Despite the VCAT team members best efforts, in the past few months, the number of shootings in Waterloo has skyrocketed. And McGeough says, many of them are gang-related.

"We had a big surge here this spring with weapons violations. We sat down with the US Attorney's Office a couple times, identified some of the cases we put together, some of the more violent cases. The US Attorney's Office adopted several of those cases and sought indictments on them."

Last month alone, the U.S. Attorney's Office charged six Waterloo men with felony gun charges. As McGeough explains, it sends a strong message to others involved in gang activity.

"They start getting word that, this case went federal, my buddies case went federal. They tend to fear that a little more than if the case goes state. They know the amount of time attached to a federal case -- not that it's more, but they'll end up serving more in the long run," said McGeough.

It's a small dent in a much larger problem. But at least six violent criminals, and their guns, are now off the street, and McGeough says, that's a positive step toward discouraging future gang-related shootings, or even homicides.

McGeough credits a big part of their success to community members and neighbors who speak up when they see something wrong. He asks people who witness gang or criminal activity to call the Waterloo Police Department. You can remain anonymous.

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