In 2008, Summit County began to see a rise in gang-related crimes, according to Sheriff Dave Edmunds. That's when the office brought in Andy Burton from the Salt Lake County Sheriff's Office as a gang detective. Now, however, the county is without one, and Edmunds said gang-related crime is on the rise again.
"With some of the budget cuts, we don't have a full-time gang liaison," Edmunds said. "We're doing our best to keep our eyes on those individuals, but it's hard to document gang members until they commit a crime."
Burton, who left the Sheriff's Office in June to serve as Chief of Police in Saratoga Springs, Utah, had 100 percent of his equipment and salary paid for through a federal grant, Edmunds said. Upon hiring him in 2005, the Sheriff's Office put him to work on gathering intelligence on gangs in the county.
Edmunds said that when Burton was on staff, the Sheriff's Office was the only rural office in Utah to have a gang expert on hand. During Burton's time, several armed robberies, a vehicle theft ring and prostitution cases were linked to gang activity.
Currently, Edmunds said there are roughly 400 known gang members in Summit County, with only around half of those claiming full-time residency. He estimated that, since many members are not documented until they commit a crime, those numbers are far greater.
During intelligence-gathering interviews with gang members during Burton's tenure, Edmunds said many would move back down to Salt Lake upon realizing the breadth of the office's gang intelligence.
"They like to operate in the shadows," Edmunds said. "They don't like law enforcement knowing who they are. We were able to make it uncomfortable for them, and so they left."
Younger gang members, Edmunds said, usually tend to commit petty crimes, whereas those in their 20s or 30s tend to commit more serious crimes. Graffiti cases, which he said were almost non-existent a few years ago, are starting to increase.
"[Gang members] like to earn reputations," Edmunds said. "Often they have to commit criminal acts in order to do that."
The Sheriff's Office often has a proactive presence at large events in the county, where Edmunds said they will scan crowds for signs of gang members and approach them if they suspect anything. Gang members, he said, gather around government-subsidized housing areas and usually come from poorer backgrounds.
Edmunds hoped that money would be restored to the Sheriff's Office budget to ensure that better gang intelligence operations can be carried out, and he also offered some words of caution to residents.
"We would caution the public always to be vigilant to be aware particularly in the darker hours of the night and in some of the more populated areas of the county," Edmunds said.