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Wake County Schools To Begin Tracking Gang Members

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RALEIGH, N.C. — With county statistics showing more than 1,700 gang members living in Wake County, the Wake County Public School System wants to know how many of those members are showing up in classrooms.

The problem, however, is that there is no reliable statewide data that show how prevalent gangs really are in schools.

Beads, homemade T-shirts and even lighters can all be used to promote gangs in schools. Wake County school faculty have the authority to seize anything with a gang sign, but the school system still does not know just how big the gang problem is.

Senior Director of Security Russ Smith plans to change that starting this school year by tracking some statistics.

"You can't deal with a problem unless you know what the problem is," Smith said.

High school Principal Andre Smith says he is on board with tracking gang members.

"You cannot replace a well-informed school system or district," he said. "This will help us know what action to take down the road."

In years past, gang symbols and writings on notebooks would fly under the radar. Now, teachers and principals all go through training to know what to track.

Graffiti is said to be the biggest gang-related problem, popping up in all corners of the county, including small towns such as Zebulon.

"I think we have about five gangs," Zebulon Police Chief Tim Hayworth said.

Hayworth says he is impressed that the school system is trying to track gang data.

"I think the cooperation level is obviously getting better. In the end it's a better result for both of us," Hayworth said.

Better numbers in the schools, Hayworth says, will help officers working on the streets.

Wake County Schools may possibly be the only local school district attempting to track gang activity. The Department of Public Instruction does not track gang activity at a state level and the other local districts WRAL contacted say they leave the tracking up to police.

The Governor's Crime Commission found 387 different gangs in North Carolina. In the Triangle, there are more than 1,700 gang members in Wake County, 1,600 in Durham County and 165 in Orange County. Across the state, more than 8,500 members have been identified.


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