Citizens Police Academy tackles topic of gangs

  • Thursday, December 5, 2013

Gangs may not be as prominent as drugs, but they do exist and no community is immune from gangs.

At least two rap music videos featuring gang signs that can be found on the internet were made near Goose Creek outside the city limits, according to a presentation made at a recent Goose Creek Police Department Citizens Police Academy.

The officer instructing this class wished to remain anonymous given the nature of the work.

These videos feature juveniles making gang signs and holding stacks of cash.

At rap concerts and in other videos performers make gang signs and spell out words and signs by dragging their feet across the stage. The concert gives thousands of juveniles the perception that it is cool and OK to be in a gang and perform illegal activities, according to the officer.

The South Carolina Criminal Gang Prevention Act was passed in 2007. It defines a criminal gang as “a formal or informal ongoing organization, association, or group that consists of five or more persons who form for the purpose of committing criminal activity and who knowingly and actively participate in a pattern of criminal gang activity. Criminal gang includes, but is not limited to, racial extremist groups, outlaw motorcycle gangs, terrorist groups, and street gangs.

“They often admit to being in a gang,” the officer said.

Some gang activity is difficult to document, but according to one statistic in 2010 there were 21 gang offenses in Berkeley County.

People join gangs for respect, companionship, profit, protection, and because they have low self-esteem.

Gangs have a set of symbols that take the place of the alphabet. These cryptic messages are how some gang members are able to run a crime syndicate inside prison, according to the officer.

The symbols are often found on tattoos, graffiti, clothing and in hand signs. Gangs have a rank structure, fees, rules and regulations. They lead to criminal activity and use intimidation tactics.

Gang violence usually occurs in larger numbers and escalates quickly, the officer said.

Motorcycles gangs also exist.

“South Carolina has always been a Hell’s Angels state,” the officer said. “Motorcycle clubs are recruiting grounds.”

The officer said the Hell’s Angels claim to control all the methamphetamine trade in the state. The Hell’s Angels have apparently been recruiting because their rival gang, the Warlocks, have been moving in on South Carolina, the officer said.

The Hell’s Angels use the number 81 to designate themselves as H is the eighth letter in the alphabet and A is the first.

Strategies to address gang violence are discouraging loitering, parents telling their children they are loved, cooperating with police, establishing a neighborhood watch and establishing community recreation and other after-school activities for youth.

The officer’s final words of encouragement to citizens and officers are: “Don’t give up. If we give up, they win.”

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