WASHINGTON, D.C. - Last week, Navajo Nation Director of Public Safety (DPS) Samson Cowboy provided testimony before the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs (SCIA) regarding the impact gangs have had on native lands and their residents. The hearing was called in response to a recently released Department of Justice (DOJ) report describing gang crime and violence in native communities.
The report stated, "Tribal communities and federal law enforcement must have the flexibility to react to a specific criminal offense and also to work collaboratively to address proactively up and coming criminal trends."
Cowboy described that the Navajo Nation, through its Drug and Gang Enforcement Unit, employs a multi-faceted and collaborative approach with state and federal counterparts to combat gangs.
"The Navajo Nation is capable of tackling this new emergence of gang activity with the appropriate resources," Cowboy said.
Cowboy noted that criminal justice facilities to prosecute and incarcerate criminal gang members are also needed to further protect communities.
Navajo DPS has identified 225 gangs on the Navajo Nation - an increase from 75 in 1997. Close to 2,000 individuals in these gangs are responsible for committing crimes including property damage (graffiti), burglaries, assaults, theft and public intoxication. In recent years, methamphetamine use has increased this level of gang activity.
Other tribal leaders provided testimony at the hearing and included representatives from the Confederated Tribes of the Coleville Reservation, the Oglala Sioux Tribe and Warm Springs Tribal Police Department.