Local News

Symposium Addresses Preventing Gang Violence In Bull City

Posted May 6, 2003 8:18 a.m. EDT

— Bloods, Cryps, Latin Kings -- the number of gangs is growing in the Triangle and gang violence is on the rise across the state.

Durham city leaders held a weekend symposium addressing gang violence. The city is looking for ways to curb what has become a disturbing trend.

Graffiti, guns, gangs. Durham's city streets can be nothing but dead-end roads for some kids. A color or a hand symbol can mean the difference between life and death.

Janet Rawls knows the dangers of gang life all too well.

Rawls' son, Kenny, is gang member who was shot three months ago.

"He's walking around, 16 years old with a bullet inside him," she said. "It hurt real bad, because at one point, he was one of my better children. He was smart, talented and now he's throwing it all away."

Rawls brought two of her other children to a two-day symposium on gangs in an attempt to keep them on the straight and narrow.

So far, it seems to be working. Azaria Rawls, 12, and her friend, Sierra Jackson, said they do not want anything to do with gang life.

"I can't be around my brother, because if I'm around him, someone might shoot him and hit me," Azaria said.

"It scares me. Gangs just scare me, period. I don't like being around gang members," Sierra said.

For every known gang member in Durham, police believe there are at least 10 others. Officers believe there are as many as 50 different gangs operating in the Bull City right now.

Sgt. Howard Alexander of the Durham Police Department has come across gang members as young as 6 years old. He said people need to know gangs are a problem that knows no boundaries.

"Just don't look at it as an inner-city kids or blacks and Latinos -- it's everybody's problem. We deal with white kids. It's not just low-income either, it effects all socio-economic groups," he said.

Durham is taking a number of steps to deal with the problem. The police deparment formed one of the first gang units in the area. The District Attorney's Office also has a prosecutor who deals soley with gang issues.