A local TV station recently did a story about gangs on the Downtown Mall, interviewing people on-camera to ask if they thought there was gang activity in the popular pedestrian corridor. An older woman said she didn’t think there was any gang activity. Behind her on a wall was a “tag” of three circles in the shape of a dog paw that represents the Bloods and the name of a man police say has since been picked up for drug charges in the Valley.
Police have stockpiled images like this one, of a P-Spect gang tattoo, for a local education campaign.
An educational program from the city and county aims to open people’s eyes to the world of gangs. C-VILLE obtained a copy of a PowerPoint presentation that is the result of gang investigations in the city and county.
Over 75-plus pages, the document catalogs everything from an Albemarle High yearbook photo of teens throwing up Westside hand signs to photographs of jail tattoos that signify neighborhood gangs, white supremacists, nationally affiliated gangs like Bloods and Crips and the Latino gang Mara Salvatrucha—all accompanied by captions from city staff: “Members use tags to rep their gang wherever they go” or “Dirty South represented.”
Dozens of pictures of graffiti reveal the presence of gang activity around town: Crips scrawl their six-pointed stars on the wall of the former Terrace Theater while Bloods mark the sidewalk outside Jackson-Via Elementary School. Local gangs from the East, West and South sides battle it out in text at a bus stop at 900 W. Main St. A profusion of images, tattoos and tags from members of Project Crud suggest that the gang associated with drug lord Louis Antonio Bryant, who was sentenced to life in prison last year in a cocaine ring crackdown, is still alive and well.
The document concludes: “Thank You. Questions?”
Um…yes. For one, if gangs are so omnipresent, why aren’t we hearing more about them?
“It’s one thing to just write symbols and it’s another to really attribute gang activity,” says city spokesman Ric Barrick. For instance, city police are not attributing a recent string of beatings by white t-shirt-clad teens near the Downtown Mall to gang activity.
Barrick says the materials will be tailored into a shorter presentation to be shown to parents and school groups. The program has already been presented in Greene County schools and to staff in city and county departments. It’s a “community outreach” effort, Barrick says, “for parents to understand what to look out for in their kids.”
For example, a member of the Bloods might refuse to eat donuts because the first bite turns the donut into a “C,” which stands for “Crips,” a rival gang, according to the PowerPoint.
Other strange-but-true gang behaviors will be fully explained by police in a formal community presentation in City Council chambers, planned for August 28 at 6pm.
Correction July 24, 2007:
In a story in last week’s Courts & Crime News, "Police to teach signs of gangs," we incorrectly stated, due to a reporting error, that police will make a gang presentation to City Council. While city and county police are scheduled to make the presentation in City Council chambers, the meeting is for the broader community.
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