March 13, 2007
With two more juveniles arrested last week on gang related charges, we asked police how big of a problem gangs are in Charlottesville.
Police tell us they no longer have a problem just with home grown street gangs. Now, they're seeing more notorious gangs like the Bloods and Crips committing violent acts here.
Video, courtesy of the Central Shenandoah Criminal Justice Training Academy shows a local gang member performing the Crip walk. He demonstrates the Crip hand shake. Charlottesville police have also documented graffiti, tattoos, and hand signs. All evidence gangs like the Bloods, Crips and MS-13 exist here.
However, their existence in itself not illegal, “It's what the gang does that is illegal,” said Charlottesville Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Ron Huber.
“We've clearly seen evidence of shootings and other violent crimes related to gangs,” said Charlottesville Police Chief Tim Longo.
Police said about a week ago, members of the Bloods sprayed Prospect Avenue using a semi automatic weapon. A 16 year old caught in the fire was shot in the back.
That’s not the first violent crime attributed to local Bloods. Last year, a 14 year old was severely gang beaten.
“He was going to walk away from that situation either way getting beat, either for getting into the gang or for not becoming part of the gang,” said Longo.
Police also said there's evidence gang members attend our schools and hang out in our malls.
“We're seeing issues that would concern us and we have communicated those issues to the school administration,” said Longo.
Police along with prosecutors are doing everything they can to gather intelligence, communicate the dangers, combat the violence and prosecute the crimes.
“If we can make that connection we are going to lodge the gang charges,” said Huber.
Police are putting together a program they will soon present to community members and at schools to help educate the public on this growing problem.
And, as gang violence increases on the streets, our local jail is also seeing an increase in inmates who are members of gangs.
The jail superintendent said he has provisions in place to keep certain gang members either housed separately or together, in order to keep the peace and to keep gang members from recruiting new members.
“If we have somebody that has been identified with a certain gang and we know that the gang has a rivalry with another gang then we put them on a ‘keep separate’ list to make sure that they are not placed in the same area or transported at the same time,” said Albemarle Charlottesville Regional Jail Superintendent Col. Ronald Matthews.
Jail officials are also working closely with local authorities to identify and put a stop to gang activity.
We also spoke with Albemarle County Police who said although they have evidence these gangs exist they have not seen the level of violence that the city has.