Posted on Tue, Feb. 14, 2006
Charlotte gang tally tops 1,200
Police update council on growth, and what they're doing to fight it
WCNC video report of this story Gang members now number more than 1,200, living and traveling all over Charlotte, police said Monday.
Some are in their 40s, but as many as a third of them are still young enough to be in school.
Charlotte-Mecklenburg police blame those gangs for crimes ranging from graffiti and identity theft to rape and murder.
Police told the City Council about the problem Monday evening, explaining that the number of gang members documented in their database had grown to 1,240. Just last summer it listed only 853.
It's not clear how much of that increase comes from a jump in gang membership, or from better tracking by police.
Police say the problems don't end at city lines. Gangs spill into neighboring communities and pay no attention to borders -- city, county, state or sometimes even those between countries.
Last year, the Governor's Crime Commission reported the number of gangs statewide increased 68 percent from 1999 to 2004, with a total of more than 8,500 members.
The Charlotte-Mecklenburg police update to city leaders Monday came two years after it formed a special gang intelligence unit to battle the growing problem. Through the unit, police say they have been able to document who is joining gangs and get a better picture of how the gangs are operating locally:
• They have identified 78 gangs. Some are locally based groups with as few as three known members such as the Oriental Ruthless Boys. But in gangs such as the Kings, police have documented 191 members. Various factions of that gang, plus the Crips, Bloods, MS-13 and SUR-13, boast the most members countywide.
• Unlike other cities such as Los Angeles or Chicago, Charlotte's gangs are mobile and are not as tied to single neighborhoods. They don't delineate turf as tightly as other cities.
• The gangs often rely on hierarchies of power. But the most dangerous members are those lowest on the ladder, said Detective Harold Jackson. Those who aren't even members are the ones most likely to try to impress the leaders at the top with reckless crimes, he said.
• Police have tied at least five of last year's 85 homicides to gangs, compared with just one in 2004.
• Some of their crime victims are other gang members and drug dealers, Capt. Eddie Levins said. But the gangs also rob and steal cars from innocent victims -- such as one woman who was raped in a gang-related home invasion.
"We have 1,240 known gang members," said Mayor Pro Tem Susan Burgess, a Democrat. "What we don't want to happen is gangs to take root in our city and flourish."
She recommended "doing whatever it takes" to stop them.
Charlotte officials have already been lobbying the legislature to increase penalties on gang members.
Police say more needs to be done to intervene with kids early on and to make sure they have families supporting them at home. Police said their Gang of One prevention program has made contact with more than 300 young people vulnerable to gangs, and they have been working closely with Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools.
But police say they also need to increase communication with other jurisdictions from Monroe to Gastonia to Rock Hill, sharing information on known gang members to try to understand the criminal networks they are all up against.
78 gangs 1,240 known members 160 Latino gang members deported 300 youths in contact with the Gang of One prevention program
http://www.charlotte.com/mld/charlotte/ ... 866102.htm