Sheriff, community groups work to limit impact of gangs on community

Pedestrian struck by bicyclist suffering severe injuries

Gangs are not new in Rock County, but officials with the Rock County Sheriff’s Office said crimes connected to gang members are becoming too common.

“It’s like not as much respect of human life. They will shoot anywhere and everywhere, all times of day and night. The calls come in, it could be 12 in the afternoon and there have been shots-fired calls,” Rock County sheriff’s Capt. Todd Christiansen said.

The sheriff’s office is part of a Rock County Gang Unit, alongside the FBI Streets Task Force and members of the Beloit Police Department. The sheriff’s office estimates there are more than 10 different gangs in the area.

Beloit police identified four suspects in last Friday’s shooting death of 5-year-old Austin Ramos Jr. All four have been identified as members of the La Raza street gang.

“We’ve got to do better. We have got to do better. It’s only January,” said Antonio Hickman, with the fatherhood initiative program at Community Action.

Hickman mentors fathers and youth in the city of Beloit through programs at Community Action. Hickman said many of those individuals have connections or have been part of a gang.

“That same structure that they are looking for in the gangs, we try to provide that just in a positive form. And the positive light the fatherhood guys, they come and they go from fatherhood to brotherhood. We are like a gang ourselves, except we are all positive,” Hickman said.

The sheriff’s office hopes to see that kind of forward movement to help prevent gangs from making irreversible decisions.

“The innocent bystanders getting shot and hurt or killed, that’s the big concern. That 5-year-old, what did that child have to do with anything to be shot and killed?” Christiansen said.