Professor: Murder trial showed Columbia has a gang problem
Jan 31, 2007
Columbia - A college professor says a recent murder trial illustrates that Columbia has a noticeable gang problem.
“We need to do something about it before [gangs get] out of control,” Howard County Community College criminal justice professor Patrick O’Guinn said.
He is the defense attorney for a Columbia man convicted in Howard County Circuit Court this month of manslaughter. The man said he was defending himself from gang violence.
O’Guinn’s client, Mike Dean Jackson, 28, shot and killed James Owen-Smith, 20, of Savage, on June 23.
But O’Guinn said Jackson had to defend himself, saying between 30 and 40 youths were fighting at the King’s Contrivance Village Center — and some later came after Jackson.
“I don’t care if they don’t have a formal gang name,” O’Guinn said. “If 30 people are looking to fight someone, that’s a gang.”
Howard County State’s Attorney Timothy McCrone said the county is seeing some gang activity.
“We’re surrounded by Montgomery County, Prince George’s County and Baltimore City, where gangs are prevalent,” he said. “We have the beginnings of some gang activity in Howard County. We are not trying to conceal that from the community.”
But he cautioned against assuming that the incident that resulted in Owen-Smith’s death was gang-related.
“We do not believe that was an organized gang activity,” he said. “It was not a group of Crips, Bloods or MS-13. That’s not to suggest that a group of people who organize to retaliate is not a concern.”
In December, the Maryland U.S. Attorney’s Office awarded $50,000 in federal funds to the Howard County police department to “implement a public information and awareness campaign” designed to counteract gang recruitment and activity