Utah Metro Gang detective shares insight about the fight to prevent gang membership

SALT LAKE COUNTY – The Utah Gang Conference is an opportunity to spotlight those on the front lines who are making a difference in their community.

Detective Esekia Afatasi, known as Skee, is someone who has made an impact in helping kids stay away from gangs.

In 2009, Afatasi led the gang unit in Kearns and Magna.

“I started a localized gang unit which comprised of just patrol officers," he said. "I dealt with a lot of Polynesian youth. They came from great families and it was just a matter of trying to fit in.”

Pacific Islanders make up less than 2 percent of Utah’s population and compose 13 percent of Utah’s gang population.

“Gangsters don't discriminate—It's all about strength in numbers,” Afatasi said. “If you wanna join our gang, we're going to recruit you and it's sad that it's getting younger and younger every year.”

Afatasi, a Samoan, made it his personal mission to change that course by being a positive role model in his community.

“My goal like every other young Polynesian kid is to make it to the NFL," he said. "That goal didn't happen, so I wanted a good positive career.”

After graduating from West Jordan High and Snow College, he launched a career in law enforcement from the Salt Lake County Sheriff’s Office to the Salt Lake Metro Gang Unit and most recently he was transferred to homicide as a detective.

He says it’s a tough job, but he hopes he’s making a difference.

“If a kid can see that I can do it, I'm just like him, that's what drives me every day knowing I can be a change for good for a lot of our Polynesian kids,” Afatasi said.

When Afatasi is officially promoted to become a sergeant this year, he will be one of the first Polynesians to do so in Salt Lake County.