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Police panel addresses gang activity

April 11, 2011

Area police chiefs and officers spoke
about gang activity, as well as other crime matters,
in Catawba County during a NAACP forum Sunday.
Photo by Nash Dunn.

Law enforcement representatives agreed Sunday that gang activity is a major issue in Catawba County.
During a Catawba County National Association for the Advancement of Colored People branch meeting at Newton City Hall, a panel of police chiefs and officers from nine local jurisdictions answered questions about gangs and other related issues.
Police chiefs and officers from the Hickory, Catawba, Conover, Newton, Maiden, Brookford and Claremont police departments agreed there is currently gang activity in Catawba County.
“Over the last few years, we’ve seen an increase in our violent crimes in our area, and they are mostly in part to gang type activity,” said Hickory Police Chief Tom Adkins.
Despite these increases, Adkins said the Catawba County Gang Initiative is helping slow down violent crime.
The initiative, which operates under a state grant received in 2008, is a collaboration between the nine law enforcement jurisdictions in Catawba County that targets top violators in the community.
Adkins said the initiative brings top violators together, offering them alternative programs like a General Education Development (GED) pathway through Catawba Valley Community College.
“Basically, what we want them to do is change their lifestyle,” Adkins said. “If they change their lifestyle, that reduces our violent crimes in our neighborhoods and our jurisdictions.”
On March 3, the initiative brought 14 top violators together at the Hickory City Council chambers.
After offering community testimonials and various alternative resources, four of the violators decided to join the initiative. As of April 10, the other 10 violators have not reoffended.
Yet even with the gang initiative, the officers said budgetary shortfalls limit the extent of what they can do.
Because of this, the nine jurisdictions in Catawba County have a mutual-aid agreement that allows officers in one area to make arrests in another.
“Maiden is a smaller community, so I may not have the luxury of having a specialized gang unit, but I do have the luxury of calling up one of these fellow departments,” said Maiden Police Chief Tracy Ledford.
The different jurisdictions recently put the mutual-aid agreement to work, as they teamed together to take down the Longview Crips. After a three-year investigation of the gang, Adkins said the “criminal enterprise came crumbling down,” with the leader receiving a 26-year sentence in federal prison.
After listening to reports from the officers, meeting attendees posed several ideas of how to increase community awareness of gang activity.
Wes Weaver, of Newton, proposed that Catawba County law enforcement create a website solely devoted to gang awareness and prevention. The potential website can provide citizens with gang-related news, information and pictures of tattoos and graffiti.
Regardless of how the community is made aware, though, Longview Police Department Sgt. Scott Pitts said gang activity is an issue everyone should be familiar with.
“Gang activity really perpetuates everything else,” Pitts said. “Crime leads to drugs, and drugs lead to gangs.”


Great, but...

April 12, 2011 by Backbone (not verified), 4 years 6 weeks ago
Comment: 313

..Websites and GED programs aint gonna solve the problem. What solves the problem is POLICE WORK, PROSECUTION and INCARCERATION! Also citizens need to get ivolved to make sure that public money is going to perpetuation of Public Order and Public Safety, vice "Unity Day".

Public Order and Safety are the true core functions of Government, it supercedes all else, including education, health and welfare (I know that is a shocker). This has been the case since the frontier Committees of Public Safety were formed to prevent massacres by the Cherokees and Tuscaroaras. You can supplement the "Gang Bangers for the indians and the Polce Gencies for said Committees!

Speechless but not wordless.

April 12, 2011 by GomerPy739 (not verified), 4 years 6 weeks ago
Comment: 309

I am flabbergasted, to say the least at this article and the meeting held on Sunday. I hate that I missed being able to attend because I would have been interested to hear this meeting with my very own ears.

1) It's about time that Catawba County publically recognized that they have an issue with gangs. As someone who grew up in this county and within city limits I have noticed an issue with gangs for over 15 years and it hasn't gotten better. They were involved in schools when I attended...prominent markings within the community that always went overlooked and if reported folks were informed that they didn't know what they were talking about. So thank you Catawba County for finally getting on board. Hopefully, unlike the issues that Charlotte went through, this isn't too late.

2) Two years ago a house beside of me was tagged overnight by gang members. When I reported it to the police department in Newton and spoke with an officer I was informed that it was probably just "wannabe's". I explained to the officer what I did for a living and that I was beyond familiar with the markings on the house and even knew what set they belonged to. He, in turn, informed me that it was probably just a bunch of kids trying to be cool and that the PD would step up patrols in the area just in case they were able to catch something or someone. I went on to inform the officer that I knew of gang activity in the neighborhood because on the same street were an entire house full of gang members. I informed him that I knew that because they allowed their gang markings to be completely in the open. He informed me that the PD had knowledge of this house but when was asked why were they patrolling that area a bit more heavily I was told that they weren't too worried about it as the household tended to stay to themselves.
When I began to ask the officer about other gang taggings that I had recognized in the area the officer told me that it hadn't been an issue lately. I then asked if Newton PD used the gang member "tracking system" GangNet and was informed that they had recently gotten but it took too long to input the information so everything was able to placed in the system.
I went on to report the house that had been tagged through the RAP system in Newton and got a phone call stating that there was nothing the city could do to force building owners to repaint or cover it up. It took me, going to speak in person, with our Mayor Pro-Tem before I saw any progress what so ever to have the taggings covered.
3) I have been anything but impressed with our county's current gang iniatives but I pray that the officers in charges continue to acknowledge there is an issue and continue to forge ahead in order to combat what is only going to amount to a growing problem. If you want to stop a gang member, you have to think like a gang member...If you want to give them alternatives, you have to learn why they do what they do to draw them out of where they are hiding.

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