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Wake County Task Force Addresses Growing Gang Problem

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RALEIGH, N.C. — A back window shot out of a car parked in the Emergency Room at Wake Med hospital is just the latest evidence of Wake County's gang violence. Another clue is the arrest of two teenagers for what investigators call the gang-related murder of Victor Herrera on Sunday night outside a Capitol Boulevard pool hall.

"Violence is on the rise," said Fuquay-Varina teen Darrell Smith. "People doing anything. It's crazy."

And it isn't just Raleigh. Smith was on the Triangle Lost Generation Task Force's gang town hall panel, to give adults his perspective as a student in the midst of this crisis.

"Everyone should be aware," said Smith. "And if they're not, they haven't been watching TV."

Judge Craig Croom agreed. He said gangs are causing serious problems in Wake County, and the evidence is seen everyday in his courtroom.

"Monday before Christmas, I heard 23 juvenile cases," said Croom. "How many were not gang members? Two."

Statistics like that are alarming. And that's the point. One goal of the meeting was to get the community to acknowledge the problem so it can be fixed.

The solution isn't simple, though. There are several factors causing the problem, and broken families top the list.

"We must stay involved with our kids," said Croom. "A strong home and family -- gangs won't get to them."

School systems and criminal systems that fail to teach what isn't taught at home were two other factors the group mentioned. But the people here say fixing the the growing gang problem won't come cheap. That will be their next battle.

State Rep. Mickey Michaux, from Durham, attended Saturday meeting. He said a bill that would provide $20 million for gang intervention stalled last session in the state Legislature. He hopes to pass it in the upcoming short session.