Tribes see less gang crime since Native Mob sweep
LEECH LAKE INDIAN RESERVATION, Minn. - Authorities in some tribal communities say they have noticed a drop in gang activity since January's sweeping take-down of two dozen suspected Native Mob gang members.
The Native Mob has terrorized tribal communities in the region since the gang began in the 1990s. Gang experts say the town of Cass Lake on the Leech Lake Indian Reservation has been the center of the gang's operations, Minnesota Public Radio News reported Thursday.
About one-third of those arrested in January were on the Leech Lake Reservation, MPR reported. Arrests were also made on the Mille Lacs and White Earth reservations, and in the Twin Cities.
The federal indictment contained 47 counts, ranging from drug trafficking to attempted murder. All 24 defendants were also charged with conspiracy to participate in racketeering, alleging they used violence and intimidation to keep the gang in power.
Dave Ulberg, a Leech Lake tribal narcotics investigator, said since the arrests, search warrants for suspected crack houses are down an estimated 70 percent, and search warrants for other drugs are down 40 percent.
"It's slowed down a lot. Crack is almost non-existent here," Ulberg said.
Ulberg also said that since the sweep, more people on the Leech Lake Reservation are sharing information with law enforcement without fear of retaliation. He said the arrests, which targeted the Native Mob's leaders, damaged the gang's structure.
"I think they got hit very hard. And I don't think it's just a temporary lull," Ulberg said. "I don't think it will be the complete end of them, but they're definitely not as strong as they used to be, right now."
Authorities are still investigating at least 10 unsolved homicides in Minnesota that may be linked to the Native Mob, said Mike Martin, a gang expert with the Minneapolis Police Department.
He said gang members in custody are under pressure to talk. Most of the defendants are in their 20s. If convicted in federal court, they face between 20 years to life in federal prison, where there is no parole.
"In a case like this, it's not unusual for some of the defendants to cooperate and provide information that would lead to other arrests or indictments in the case," Martin said. "The ones who are still out and about are going to be worried that they're going to be next. ... They should be worried."
Leech Lake tribal member Crystal Goose told MPR that her son, Jeremee Kraskey, was a member of the Native Mob. Kraskey, 32, was killed in February 2011, in a south Minneapolis alley. Investigators told Goose the murder appeared to be gang related.
Goose has a shrine in her Cass Lake home, decorated with eagle feathers and a picture of her son.
"I have a whole corner just for Jeremee. Those are his ashes," Goose said.
Kraskey's unsolved murder is not part of the current Native Mob indictments, but Goose hopes the indictments will lead to justice for her son, who she says was active in the gang for a year before he was killed.
Goose said gangs still have a tight grip on her community, and she worries there are young men waiting to step up as leaders.
She believes the community needs to speak up when people they know are involved in gangs. Goose wishes she'd have done that when her son was still alive.
"In order for this to stop, the grandparents and the parents have to quit harboring and sticking up for their children they know are committing these heinous crimes," Goose said. "It doesn't do any good to sweep it under the rug, because this can happen to anybody. I never thought it would happen to me."
Minnesota Public Radio News