Monday, January 15, 2007

Gang Activity Increasing

From Jenni
Gang activity contributing to increased Hancock crime rate

You may have never heard of the Gangsta Disciples, Crips, Simon City Royals, or Latin Kings, but these and other street gangs have caught the attention of law enforcement officials in Hancock County.Over the past year, gang activity has been suspected in numerous crimes in the county, including drive-by-shootings, burglaries, armed robberies, and drug activity, officials said.
"The federal government says any group of more than three is a gang," Chief Investigator Kenny Hurt said Thursday. While most officials do not consider the gang problem in the county a major problem, it is becoming a growing epidemic among the area's youth.
"The Youth Court has had numerous referrals on juveniles who are involved in gangs," Youth Court Administrator Chere Hayward said Thursday. "I believe parents need to be aware that there are actual gangs in our county."
Hayward said there are several signs parents can look for to see if their child is possibly involved in gang activity. She said items such as adding or deleting a primary color in a youth wardrobe, drawing signs or symbols on books or in their room, signs of drug abuse, and increased amounts of money or material possessions without any explanation, could all point to possible gang activity.
Currently, there is a feud between rival gang members in the Lakeshore and Shoreline communities, officials said.
The Shoreline group goes by the nickname "The Shoreline Soldiers," and the Lakeshore group is known as "The Posse," one youth told the Echo.
Both of the group are affiliated with major street gangs such as the "Simon City Royals," (SCR), a gang formed in the streets of Chicago decades ago.
Members of the SCR wear blue, a similar color to the "Crips" a street gang formed in California.
"Monitoring gangs is difficult," Hurt said. "The gangs are the cause of a lot of fights, and trouble making. Most of it is small groups who want to do some dirt."
Hayward warned that even though some consider gang members here may be considered "wanta-bees" they are still capable of causing considerable problems."If someone says they are in a gang, then the gang is here," she said.Gang activity has also been suspected in jail violence. Officials at the Pearl River County Jail said this week that some accusations of officers assaulting inmates are really related to violence among inmates themselves.
"There is intimidation going on between the inmates," Pearl River Chief Deputy Julie Flowers said Thursday. "It is not necessarily gang-related, although some of the members are in gangs. Some of the stronger inmates try to take over the cell, and they have to be placed in lock down."
She said separating the inmates has caused a dramatic drop in the violence.
Officials said the same principal may be true among gangs on the street, as arrests may cut the leadership of the gangs.
Hurt believes the current conditions in the county may be causing more youths to turn towards the gangs.
Hayward urges parents to get more involved.
"There are a number of websites that can provide parents information," she said. "The most important thing a parent can do is get involved in your child's life, make them feel loved and give them a sense of belonging so they don't seek it elsewhere."

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