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Citizens Police Academy-week 7: gangs

Aside from terrorists, it seems that few things strike fear into our hearts like teenagers sporting “colors” and guns. Last week, after brief introductions to the FCPD’s Explorer and Cadet programs, and an overview of the School Resource Officers (cops in middle and high schools), a detective from the gang squad stopped by.

Here are my takeaways from the detective’s talk:

  • In general—at least in Fairfax County—most criminal activity is perpetrated on other gang members, especially the violent crimes.
    • Robbery/burglary is an exception
    • Graffiti is the most common gang-related crime in the county
  • There are two types of graffiti. That perpetrated by taggers, and that done by gangs.
    • Tagger graffiti is very artistic, often bubbly, and hard to read. It’s more about expression and the thrill than about marking territory or sending a message.
    • Gang graffiti is generally simple and legible, and is used for one of the following purposes:
      • Roll call: a list of gang members names (usually nicknames)
      • Identification of alliances: lets other gangs know that two or more gangs have formed an alliance
      • Declare war: show which gangs are fighting
      • Tribute: to pay tribute to a dead member(s) or to warn that someone’s marked for death
    • Detectives follow the gang graffiti closely to get insight on what’s going on in the gang world. They also photograph it for later reference and comparison.
  • Due to police awareness of tattoos, colors, hand signs, and gang paraphernalia, trends in all of these are constantly evolving. Lately detectives have noticed a reduction in the tattoos, especially those on the face/neck.
    • Gangs now post YouTube videos with catchy rap songs and dances, intended to help with recruitment.
    • Gang members often use FaceBook to keep in touch and recruit (and sometimes to get caught by the cops!)
  • Why do kids get involved?
    • To fill a void at home.
    • They grew up in a gang family and don’t know anything else.
      • Some of the photos he showed of babies and toddlers dressed in gang colors and throwing signs or holding guns were heartbreaking.
      • Siblings/parents in a gang serve as a role model.
    • Peer pressure
    • Status
    • Money
    • Drugs
    • Adrenaline rush
  • Gangs are everywhere, even the suburbs and smaller cities, though politicians often won’t acknowledge the problem until it gets out of hand. This is bad because that means they’re not putting up the resources to fight it either.
  • Proven methods for dealing with gangs include: partnerships with the Feds, deportation for illegals involved in gang activity, snitching (as mentioned before, most criminals will talk), laws that provide stiffer penalties for crimes committed as part of gang activity, gang-related training for cops and school administrators.

For more information on gangs, check out Robert Walker’s Gangs Or Us.