Alexandria police downplay gang-like activity in the city

David Dinsmore (The Town Talk)
July 30, 2010

The latest threat assessment released by the FBI-led National Gang Intelligence Center shows a trend of urban gang members migrating to suburban and rural cities to try to recruit members and set up drug-dealing and other illegal pursuits.

About 14 percent more law enforcement agencies reported gang activity between 2004 and 2008, according the 2009 National Gang Threat Assessment.

Officials in a town — population about 24,000 — in Virginia estimate about 350 young people are part of a nationally known gang like the Crips, Bloods and Gangster Disciples, according to a recent Gannett story.

But Alexandria Police Department officials say there is no data showing this migration is reaching here.

What is more common in Alexandria, however, are groups of loosely tied people from neighborhoods without strong organization or definitive rank structure, said Sgt. Bruce Fairbanks, intelligence division commander at APD.

“I’m not going to call them gangs, because that’s not what they are,” Fairbanks said. “They’re not ‘hard core,’ organized gangs like you see on TV.”

There has been an increase in the instances of “tagging” — using graffiti to stake out a gang’s territory — taking place around the city, but Fairbanks said there is no evidence these are directly associated with the California gangs that popped up in the area in the late 1980s and early 1990s. The tags appear to be neighborhood groups claiming to be a set within gangs like the Bloods or the Crips.

Some within the community, though, are concerned about the implications, said Vernon Creecy, former Rapides Parish Detention Center warden who has spent more than 20 years studying and speaking about gangs.

“All of a sudden, I’m seeing more (evidence of gang activity) coming up,” Creecy said.

A 59 Blood tag — a gang documented to having a criminal history in the Shreveport area — showed up on a trash can in Creecy’s hometown of less than 1,000 people, which leads Creecy to think there might be more young people in rural areas affiliating themselves with urban gangs, he said. Yet, it will not be as easy to spot it today as it once was.

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