COOKE COUNTY, TX - An annual assessment released by the Department of Public Safety shows one North Texas county has one of the highest concentrations of gang activity in Texas.
The annual report recently released by D-P-S shows Cooke County as one of 20 counties in the state of Texas with the highest threat of gang activity.
Although Cooke County Sheriff Terry Gilbert and Gainesville Police Chief Kevin Phillips agree that gangs are present in Cooke County, they believe when looking that the numbers closely they are being misinterpreted.
"Its just spread across our state and across our country. They're everywhere now," said Phillips
Phillips said gangs are everywhere, even in Cooke County.
"They definitely are in our area and they definitely can cause problems," said Phillips
The Texas Gang Threat Assessment is an annual report released by the Texas Department of Public Safety to provide a broad overview of gang activity in the state.
This year it shows Cooke County with one of the highest concentrations of gang activity in the state.
"There are 20-25 counties that are listed in the state of Texas as being in that higher bracket. I don't believe that to be the case here in Gainesville or Cooke County," said Gilbert
The Texas Gang Threat Assessment is based on the information and expertise of multiple law enforcement and homeland security agencies across Texas.
Including the Cooke County Sheriff's Office and the Gainesville Police Department.
"I think we are dealing with raw data. If you really get into it and start pinpointing certain areas and certain things then it's not what they say it is," said Gilbert
Sheriff Gilbert and Chief Phillips said many of the people they have entered into the gang database do not live in Gainesville and the number of actual gang members in the area is very small.
"The numbers that we can identify as currently living in Gainesville is a very, very small percentage of our population. It represents .18% which is less than a quarter of a percent of our population here in Gainesville. So while we are not trying to minimize the serious in our area of gangs they do represent a very small segment of our community," said Phillips.
Several agencies within Cooke County agree that Interstate-35 is a major route for drug smuggling. Although I-35 is used mainly for legitimate reasons, it's also used as a main corridor for illegal activity
"And I think that's why DPS probably made that choice to say 'hey if you're on the I-35 corridor, there's going to more activity along that corridor.' The thing is if it's just because we're on the I-35 corridor, it doesn't mean they're stopping in Gainesville or Cooke County necessarily. But we probably have more of that passing through our town and in our county," said Phillips
Both Sheriff Gilbert and Chief Phillips believe statistics can be a valuable tool but they also can be easily misinterpreted.
They said their departments will continue to work every day to keep the residents of Cooke County safe.
"Our job is to protect the citizens of Gainesville and Cooke County and we are going to do our best to investigate it. If they deserve to be entered into the Texas Crime Center then that's where they'll be," said Gilbert.
"Anytime gang activity is mentioned and associated with an event we take that very seriously. We are a small community. We feel like we're a safe community. it's a small rural atmosphere and we are going to keep it that way," said Phillips