In the fight against gangs, Aurora police just found a new weapon.
The weapon isn't firepower, extra police officers or undercover stings. It's a special prosecutor.
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Aurora City Council this week unanimously approved the use of $60,000 in federal grant money to help Kane County hire a special prosecutor to work on gang issues.
The prosecutor will file civil lawsuits against Aurora's known gang members to prevent them from actions like congregating together, loitering in specific locations or wearing certain combinations of colors, Kane County State's Attorney Joe McMahon said.
Once the lawsuit becomes a verified complaint, if police find a gang member violating its terms, they can take action.
"It allows the Aurora Police Department to make an arrest, an on-scene arrest, and conduct a search," McMahon said. "What we've found is that takes drugs off the street."
Violating the civil complaint means gang members can be prosecuted for criminal offenses such as unlawful contact with street gang members.
"It allows police to be proactive," McMahon said. "The idea is to have an immediate response."
Aurora police will work with McMahon after he hires the prosecutor to identify the city's most notorious gang members who have been involved with street crime for years, Police Chief Greg Thomas said.
While other efforts to get gang members off the streets have succeeded in reducing Aurora's overall crime rate, Thomas said it will be helpful to have a new tool to penalize gang members for their actions.
"We've been having a lot of good results, but you can't keep doing the same thing all the time," Thomas said. "This is one more step we can use to combat gang crime."
McMahon said a similar program against gangs is under way in Elgin, where members of the Latin Kings have an injunction filed against them.
"The more productive use of it is to prohibit them from being with other known gang members in a certain area that the gang might want to protect," McMachon said.
Aurora's grant money for the special prosecutor came from the Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant.
Thomas said he does not expect the grant to be available again next year, so if the city wants to keep the special prosecutor on board, other funding will have to be found.