UNO Professors stand by their assessment of Omaha gangs

Aug 16, 2012

Dr. Pete Simi, Associate Professor and Dr. Dennis Hoffman, Professor both work in the School of Criminology at UNO. 

The two spent 15 months on a gang assessment report commissioned by the city and the Empowerment Network.

They conducted in-depth interviews with 69 current and former gang members using the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention’s model. 

Dr. Hoffman says the most significant and unexpected finding was that problems with gang activity had less to do with gang members and more to do with police. 

During the course of their research, the two uncovered specific issues such as police picking up gang members and dropping them off in rival territory as well as interrupting the work of gang intervention specialists. 

Dr. Hoffman says the primary criticisms of the report are that it is incomplete and inaccurate.

"Our report has been out in the community, circulating for more than a month.  Never has any of our sources or subjects come to us and said “You got it wrong.”  Not one iota and this includes police officers, prosecutors and gang members.”

Dr. Simi says all research and assessment is incomplete.  He says that’s the nature of research.  You never have the final answer, that’s why there has to be a commitment to assessment as an ongoing process.

"Because you understand from the outset that any assessment you do will be incomplete.  And that’s expressly stated in the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention’s model that the assessment has to be ongoing.  You can’t just do it once and say, ‘Oh, I’ve got a complete assessment.  I’m done assessing.’"

City officials have declined to speak publicly about the report due to its being “incomplete and inaccurate.”  The city plans to get another assessment that “follows the appropriate guidelines.”  

The full gang assessment report is available online.