VANCE COUNTY, N.C. — Authorities in Durham are sharing their experiences with gangs with their northern neighbors. Henderson and Vance authorities hope the message will help prevent children from falling into the cycle of gang life.
"What we see is a need to belong and that's what gangs are all about. They suck our children in and offer them a way of life," Vance County juvenile court counselor Kim Rogers said.
In rural Vance County, there are early signs that gangs are here.
"It's growing. Their dress and criminal activity involving gang members," Sheriff Thomas Breedlove said.
Durham police Sgt. Howard Alexander has decades of experience in fighting gangs in the Bull City. He told everyone from law enforcement officers to ministers and teachers what to look out for. He said parents are also part of the solution to stop the spread of gangs.
"Look at what they are writing, look at their notebooks, look at what clothes they all of a sudden want to wear or the unexplained absences from home or the disrepect and talking back," Alexander said. "You can't throw your hands up in the air and quit."
"A lot of this takes place at night. You may think you dropped off your child at the theater, and they leave and never go in and they are off to become a part of that gang," Rogers said.
In North Carolina, it is not a crime to belong to a gang. Legislation that would make gang activity a criminal offense died in the Legislature. Lawmakers feared the state would not have the money to build enough prisons.
sheriff's deputies expressed concern that graffiti found in the area may be gang-related. Now,
is seeing the first signs of gangs. Since last fall, authorities have noticed various gang symbols. So far, Clayton police have not seen any real gang violence.
Earlier this year, a film crew released a
to expose the underground world of gangs in Durham. Last week, members of Project Stay met in the Bull City to discuss ways to deal with the gang culture.