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Authorities Question New Statistics About Durham Gangs

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DURHAM, N.C. — Law officers in Durham want to set the record straight regarding new statistics about Durham's gang problem.

Durham County's juvenile justice system estimates gang members in the Bull City are approaching 5,000.

"We've had isolated incidents back to back to back, but it's not as bad as people say it is," said Keith Dobson of the Durham Sheriff's Gang Unit, which has 30 officers working to keep track of gang activity.

The number is high in comparison to other cities. Charlotte, with a much larger population, has a fraction of that, around 1,000. The Raleigh Police Department reports about 500 known gang members.

While gang symbols dot the landscape in Durham, the police department said the city's gang population is half of that 5,000 estimate.

District Judge Marcia Morey said there is no time to fight over who has the right statistics. The real fight, she said, needs to remain on streets and in the courts to end gang violence.

"We are cracking down hard in our courts with active sentences because gang involvement is the biggest risk factor for future criminal behavior," Morey said.

Morey also says that city and county programs help, but parents must double as detectives -- by looking for gang signs like tattoos, clothes and changes in behavior -- and put a stop to it. Once the problem reaches court, she said, it is too late.