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Gang census: County has 516 members

MANATEE -- Florida has 56,200 gang members, associates and other suspects statewide, a census by the state Attorney General’s Office has found.

Of those, 516 live in Manatee County this year, according to the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office. There are 45 associates and an estimated 150 suspected gang members who are not documented, said sheriff’s office Gang Unit Sgt. Gary Combee.

Manatee County has 21 documented different gangs, including several motorcycle gangs and Aryan Brotherhood.

“We’re taking a proactive approach,” said Manatee County Sheriff Brad Steube, who is also the chair of a regional gang reduction task force. “We’ve had three RICO gang prosecutions. We’re working on a fourth. We’ve put approximately 40 gang members in prison.”

RICO is an anti-racketeering law.

Three gangs have undergone RICO prosecution: Brown Pride Locos, Third Shift and SUR-13.

Both Sarasota County and Manatee County authorities have pending RICO cases with the statewide prosecutor’s office.

“We’re still waiting,” said Steube when asked about the fourth round of RICO prosecutions that were filed six months ago.

“It’s kind of like waiting in line. The statewide prosecutor’s office doesn’t have enough folks to go around.”

Statewide, there was a 1.7 percent decrease in the number of gang members -- 30,796, but all other figures increased including the number of gangs documented and the number of law enforcement agencies reporting figures.

In releasing the statistics Wednesday, state Attorney General Bill McCollum said the survey will help Florida’s fight against gang activity, as it will provide a baseline for measuring future results.

There are 14,526 suspected members and 9,254 gang members who are in the state prison system or released under supervision.

That’s an increase of 6 percent compared to last year. Gang individuals make up 7.4 percent of the prison population, according to the report.

State officials attribute the increase, in part, to the fact that all 67 Florida counties are reported in the census for the first time. Out of the 360 police departments and sheriff’s offices in the state, 71 percent participated this year. Last year, there were a total of 59 counties reporting.

In Sarasota County, there are 400 documented gang members and 95 associates from a total of five gangs.

Local figures were not available from 2009 to compare in Manatee and Sarasota counties.