Gang Violence Slows Down In Missoula - ABC FOX MONTANA NEWS, WEATHER, SPORTS - KTMF/KWYB

Gang Violence Slows Down In Missoula

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MISSOULA -

An autopsy shows gang symbols were carved into Gilbert Barry's body, the man who was shot and killed before being thrown into the Clark Fork River.

This brought to light the possibility of increased gang activity among transients in Missoula. ABC FOX Montana's looked into gang activity in Missoula over the past few years. We actually found out it's been declining.

Wade, a local transient, has traveled to communities across the nation. He's been living in Missoula since he first came across it.

"In general Missoula is safe place," Wade said, even as he recovers from a fall.

Despite recent violence among transients, including a brutal murder, he said he's never felt in danger while living in town.

“That murder was a rare,” he said.

With the recent murder of Gilbert Barry, an autopsy revealed gang symbols were carved into his skin before a group of transients murdered him under the Reserve Street Bridge.

“Is that indicative of a growing gang problem in Missoula? I'd say no. Gang violence has been level and actually slow for the last several years," said Guy Baker, with the Montana Regional Violent Crime Task Force.

As part of the task force, Baker works to crack down on gangs, using indicators like patterns in violence, and in Missoula, graffiti.

"Graffiti is like the news part of the streets. You can use it to see which gangs are in town, which rivalries are in town and who is targeting who,” Baker said.

Baker said most of the graffiti that can be seen around Missoula is not gang related. He said this type of presence has been going down since the early 2000's.

“Where a lot of community's are reactive, Missoula has been very proactive over the past 20 years as a matter of fact,” Baker said.

About 15 years ago, a gang made up of transients prayed on other drifters, resulting in at least one homicide. Baker says the group is no longer active.

"To say there are other groups traveling and preying on people in a societal group, I'd say that's possible. Is it exclusive to Missoula? No," Baker said.

Baker said gang violence has been slow in recent years, but the task force is constantly working to prevent it.

"Even though we've been successful for last 20 years we can be invocated with gangs next year, so it's something we keep a vigilant eye on."

Baker asks for the community's help stopping gang violence. If you notice any suspicious activity in your area, you're asked to call Missoula police.

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