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Tuesday, July 12, 2005

What Can Lynchburg Do About Gangs?

In previous posts we have asked the question, what is Lynchburg's plan about gangs. We have also identified the gangs operating in Central Virginia. In Hampton Roads Virginia the gang problem has been getting out of hand. Gangs seep in slowly and the problem will expand if we ignore the problem. There is a particular gang in Hampton Roads that is already here, MS-13.

Reported by the Virginia Pilot:

"A warning has come from the feds.

An FBI informant says MS-13, a notorious street gang with ties to El Salvador, recently issued an order for its members to kill someone — anyone — wearing a badge in Hampton Roads. "

We cannot stress more, how much Lynchburg should develop a plan, a comprehensive plan, to deal with the gang issue. Below is part of what one city is doing in Wisconsin. Lynchburg needs to be addressing the gang issue. In our opinion if we do not act we will be left to react.

Provided by the Madison Wisconsin Police Department:


Street gang membership encompasses all races from most socioeconomic levels and are not limited to larger cities. Active prevention is now required virtually from the start of a child's entry into the school system. Street gangs have national scope, many are localized imitation of larger cities.
A street gang is a group or association of three or more persons who may have a common identifying sign, symbol or name, and who individually or collectively engage in, or have engaged in, criminal activity, or as a juvenile commits an act that if committed by an adult would be a criminal act


"Gang related incident" - An incident shall be considered gang related when one or more of the following criteria are met:

1. When an incident occurs where the participants, suspects or victims, are identified as gang members or affiliates.
2. When a law enforcement agency or reliable informant identifies an incident as gang activity.
3. When an informant of previously untested reliability identifies an incident as gang activity and it is corroborated.
4. When the conduct is consistent with street gang activity. Indicators of street gang involvement may be based on the suspects' description, method of operation, or other evidence that reasonably indicates that gang members were involved in the incident.


An individual shall be considered a "Street Gang Member" when that person meets any one of the following criteria:

1. When the individual admits membership in a gang.
2. When a law enforcement agency or reliable informant identifies an individual as a gang member.
3. When an informant of previously untested reliability identifies an individual as a gang member, and it is corroborated by independent information.
4. When the individual resides in or frequents a particular gang's area and affects their style of dress, use of hand signs, symbols or tattoos, and/or maintains ongoing relationships with known gang members; or has been arrested several times in the company of identified gang members for offenses which are consistent with usual gang activity; and where the law enforcement officer believes there is reasonable suspicion that the individual is involved in gang-related criminal activity or enterprise.


An individual who does not meet the criteria for a "Street Gang Member," but is known to affiliate with active gang members, and law enforcement personnel have established a reasonable suspicion that the individual is involved in criminal activity or enterprise, or promotes the criminal activity of a gang.


Activities that gangs are involved in include fighting, vandalism, graffiti, armed robbery weapon offenses, auto theft battery and drug dealing. Not all gang members are engaged in illegal activities. Criminal activity is usually committed by gang members for monetary benefit to either the gang itself or to an individual member.


Peer pressure plays an important role in a decision to join a gang. Gang members come from all walks of life, from low income to high income. Some gang members have relatives who belong to a gang. Gang members are placed in the following categories:
1. "Leaders" are usually the oldest members with extensive criminal backgrounds. They direct the activities and recruitment of the gang members. Each gang has a particular command structure. Currently in the Dane County area there are limited numbers of gang member that are considered to be officers. Most of the high ranking officers in the gangs come from source cities, such as Chicago.
2. "Hard-core members" are usually the most violent members of the gang with criminal backgrounds. They generally commit the more serious crimes and are behind the drug dealing trade for the gang. They intimidate the younger members of the gang and show them what is required to display loyalty to the gang. Locally these gang members are currently the most influential gang members and are the link between Chicago and Madison.
3. "Fringe and/or marginal members" are usually the youngest and the newest members of the gang with little criminal backgrounds. They may have joined the gang or are thinking about joining the gang. They may only be involved temporarily or on a limited basis, or they may progress into hard-core members. This group represents the majority of gang members seen in Dane County.


Gang members use graffiti, hand signs, jewelry, tattoos, clothing and colors to signify their membership in a gang and to communicate their gang affiliation to others. Each gang has its own unique graffiti, signs and colors.

HAND SIGNS Are used to communicate within the gang and as a challenge to rival gangs. The signs are made by forming letters and/or numbers with fingers.
TATTOOS Are used to mark ones body as an identifier indicating membership in a particular gang. The tattoos can include the name, initials, street of origin, initials, or symbols of a gang. Some tattoos are professionally drawn while others are homemade. Tattoos can be found on any part of the body, but are commonly found on the hands, arms, chest, back, thighs or ankles.
COLORS Most gangs have particular colors that they use to identify themselves. Many of the gang members will frequently dress in these colors. In Madison the two colors most associated with gang activity are blue and red.
CLOTHING Some gangs use particular sports team clothing to represent their gang by picking a team that uses the particular colors associated with gangs. They may also pick out a teams clothing because of the symbol represented by that team, such as the five point star used by the Dallas Cowboys.
JEWELRY Gangs are usually divided into two groups, the folks and peoples. Jewelry with a six point star indicate a membership with a gang related to the folks, while a five point star is associated with peoples.


Members of gangs use street-names with each other. They are used to conceal identification from law enforcement. Sometimes gang members use addressers such as "folks" and "people" when talking to each other.
NOTE: The wearing of particular items of clothing should not be used alone as an indication of gang involvement. Current clothing style imitate gang membership.


1. Baseball caps worn distinctively to the left or the right.
2. Tattoos of stars, pitchforks, or unexplained symbols.
3. Jewelry, including rings, earrings, and necklaces with nicknames, stars, pitchforks or unexplained initials or symbols.
4. Money from an unexplained source.
5. Certain clothes with particular colors and sport team identification which are the only type a child will wear.
6. New friends that parents are not acquainted with and whom they are not allowed to meet.
7. Unexplained signs and symbols on books, folders, clothes, bedroom walls and personal belongings.
8. Truancy or poor progress in school.
9. Frequent negative contacts with police.


Gang members mark their territory with graffiti, such as pitch forks, initials and symbols. The markings can range from simple to elaborate. Typically graffiti is used to warn competing gangs that there is a threat of takeover. It is essential to remove graffiti as soon as possible, so that it will not be defaced by a rival gang. "Dissing" is done by insulting rival gangs. This occurs when original gang graffiti is crossed out and an opposing gang graffiti written over or next to it, or by graffiti representing the original gang written upside down by the rival gang.
Again it is important to remove the graffiti as soon as possible. Business and property owners should be made aware of graffiti and encouraged to remove it as soon as possible. Graffiti should be reported to your local police or sheriff's precinct as soon as possible.
NOTE: Keep in mind that graffiti is not isolated to any particular neighborhood. Several Dane County communities have reported having graffiti.


1. Don't ignore your suspicions, talk to your child.
2. Watch for some of the signs mentioned previously.
3. Listen to conversations your child has with friends or new acquaintances.
4. Check your child's room periodically for signs and symbols.
5. Talk to your child's teachers about your suspicions.
6. Divert your child's attention away from friends unknown to you and into other activities.
7. Ask for help from the many community agencies.
8. Call the police. We will respond to your questions and if desired talk with you and child about gangs.
*** Do not think that a gang is just a phase. Older gang members use newer gang member or people looking to get into the gang by having them take most of the risk. Large quantities of "crack" cocaine have been found on newer members, while older members refuse to associate with them when they get caught.


1. Report all crimes and gang activity to the police.
2. Identify any suspects to the police, as well as any Street Names. Remember information can be kept confidential.
3. Remember that we cannot do the job alone and we need the help of those in the community.


Teachers, safety aides, counselors, administrators, and coaches can help to identify gang members or those at risk by:
1. Monitor known gang members.
2. Monitor associates who are commonly seen with known gang members.
3. Discourage those that may be at risk, especially in elementary and middle schools.
4. Recognize of graffiti that students may mark on books, folders, lockers, clothing.
5. Recognize of gang related tattoos that students may have .
6. Recognize of gang related jewelry that students may wear.
7. Recognize of gang signs used by gang members.
8. Work with students and staff to discourage gang involvement and related activities.

(Local news) (Gangs, graffiti, drugs, and violence) (Local police, law and crime)


At 9:45 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Lynchburg can stop slapping these People on the wrist when they are caught doing wrong! Most of the people are dealing drugs,stealing,not paying child support or simply letting the kids run wild! Make them accountable. Put them on work details picking up litter or cutting grown bushes. Also they could clean up the graffiti!

At 9:01 PM, Blogger B O B said...

Thank you for your comment. I think that you have some very good ideas here. Not only would this punish offenders, but could lead them on the path of doing something good for the community.

At 1:35 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The only way to stop gangs is to change the social conditions thats lead people to join gangs.We need a living wage for all workers so parents can spend time raising their kids instead of working two or three jobs just to make ends meet.Also,better public schools,free health care,and good,affordable housing.

At 10:24 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

To Bob, as a child when I got into some trouble,I knew I would be punished or whipped for my actions.To this very day I thank my parents for each whipping I got.What I'm getting at is this,parents are worried about Social Services getting involved when the kid have a whep on the leg as if its child abuse. When its an honest but whipping!Don't spare the Rod.

At 5:05 PM, Blogger B O B said...

Thank you for your comments. There are many opinions on how we got into the mess that we are in. Parenting is an important aspect in how children develop and interact in their community. How to achieve good parenting skills is worth further research from all of us.

One aspect of positive parenting would be helping your child to develop positive goals and a sense of worth.

Things to consider, are projects you can get your child involved in. One that I would look into is the Pay It Forward Foundation, if you don't know what it is I encourage you to look into it.

I beleive that anytime you see your child going astray, look for ways you can redirect your child to doing something positive. There are lots of options.


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