Todd Lucas is a natural public speaker. With his close-cropped hair and nearly perfect sense of timing, he talks with an aggressive brand of humor that isn’t so much of the in-your-face variety as it is a “Get a load of this” inclusiveness. With his arms waving, chin jutting out and his ever-present laser pointer always at the ready, he is nothing if not engaging.
And judging by his rank of detective with the Charlottesville Police Department, Lucas is a pretty good cop to boot.
Lucas is one of a pair of local detectives who gives gang-awareness presentations to local community groups and schools. Detective Jim Hope of the Albemarle County Police Department rounds out the duo, and on Monday, February 4 they were at the Senior Center to run through the presentation for local senior citizens.
Detective Todd Lucas, shown here at a September gang presentation, had some awkward moments explaining terms like M.O.B. (“Money Over Bitches”) to a group of seniors.
It was essentially the same presentation that the two detectives gave in September to city and county residents. That night, the mood was heavier, more formal. Both Lucas and Hope wore jackets and ties.
Monday’s presentation was more freewheeling, with moments of levity between troublesome pictures and brow-furrowing information. It was, however, not without its awkward moments. The tasks of explaining the abbreviations M.O.B. (“Money Over Bitches”) and C.M.F. (“Crazy Motherfuckers”) to a roomful of grandparents fell to both Hope and Lucas. Each explanation, where uncustomary words were reluctantly, if clinically, employed, felt weirdly reminiscent of a coming-of-age sex talk, only with the roles reversed.
The audience of roughly 30 people watched a video clip of a man in baggy jeans and a loose t-shirt walk up to a table. His face is out of the frame, but his hands aren’t, and they begin pulling various handguns from his pockets and waistband. There were small gasps from the audience as he set the first five guns on the table. They turned into giggles as the guns kept coming, all 11 of them, until the man in the video came to his coup de grace, pulling a 3′-long rifle from his right pant leg.
Like the presentation in September, this one consisted of various photos of graffiti and tattoos, all of which were gathered from the city and county. When it came time to explain the two sides of the gang world—the People and Folk nations—Lucas played to his crowd.
“Who hasn’t seen West Side Story?” he asked. No one raised a hand. Hope got a similar reaction to the white supremacy section of the presentation, in which he showed a forearm tattoo with the words “April 20.”
“Who knows what April 20 is?” he asked the group, which contained its fair share of World War II veterans. Two voices replied in unison: “Hitler’s birthday.”
Lucas leaped up from his chair. “I told you they would know!”
After the presentation, there were looks of disbelief as people filed out or made their way up front to talk to Lucas and Hope. One woman, who didn’t want her name used, said, “It scared me to death.” She has two grandchildren, ages 9 and 12, and said she’s worried about how everything that she’d seen might affect them. “I’m so overwhelmed.”
Al Highsmith, a jocular World War II veteran who’s lived in the Charlottesville area for 15 years, said he was surprised to see the level of gang activity hidden around the city and county in plain sight.
“It almost makes me want to stay home at night,” he said. “I didn’t know anything about it for a few years, then BANG, here it is. I remember seeing the side of Circuit City painted up. I thought if there were going to be gangs, they’d be down at Garret Square, but boy, that’s scary.”
He paused a second and looked up at Lucas and Hope, two men in their late 20s or early 30s, breaking down the laptop projector and winding up cords. “It’s just downright scary.”