Courts & Crime

Building a case against Tacoma's oldest gang

TACOMA, Wash. -- It began with the whisperings of confidential informants.

The Hilltop Crips were making a play to exert their force on the city again, sources told members of the South Sound Gang Task Force last year. They were robbing, shooting, beating and stealing to win turf, make money and reinforce their fearsome reputation.

It was a familiar and worrisome refrain to police and prosecutors who’ve spent years pursuing Tacoma gangs, including the Hilltop Crips, the city’s oldest and its most active gang in the past 18 months.

This time, authorities were in position to make a play of their own.

Armed with a novel legal approach, resources to throw at the case and inside information from a Crips member with stories to tell, they decided to try to gut the gang in one fell swoop.

“Everything fell into place,” said Pierce County deputy prosecutor Gregory Greer, who put forward the criminal conspiracy theory under which targeted members of the gang will be prosecuted.

Now, they’ll try to prove in court what they’ve pronounced in charging papers and at a news conference: that members of the gang engaged in a criminal conspiracy to make money through illegal means.

It’s thought to be the first time state prosecutors have tried to make a conspiracy case against a street gang in Washington, and there are no guarantees of success.

“There’s a lot of uncharted territory,” Greer said.

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