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Durham Police Department Creates Anti-Gang Unit

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DURHAM — Durham Policesay there are anywhere from 20 to 60 gangs in the Bull City, and their activity is increasing. Those numbers have prompted the police department to take the first step in the Triangle to target gangs.

Sgt. Maurice Hayes of the Durham Police Department says gang violence has grown the last five years.

"We don't have a real serious problem yet. It's only with the local gangs," Hayes says. "But when you have people migrating and teaching the ways of traditional gangs and teaching violence, that's when you have a problem."

Enter DRAGON: the Durham Resistance Against Gang Onset unit. Its mission is to eradicate gangs through public education, parent notification and suppression.

City Councilwoman Jackie Wagstaff says she sees the gangs' effect on the community.

"There are a lot of older people in the neighborhood that are feeling unsafe about being at bus stops and just walking the streets where they used to could do that," Wagstaff says.

Sgt. Hayes says gangs have their territory clearly marked, just like their bodies.

"We looked on his (one teen's) arm, and he had all the tattoos," Hayes says. "He even had a sign on his arm showing he was a Crip."

Sgt. Hayes says three weeks later, that teen shot someone. He says the key is to get to these kids early.

"Any child you see that says, 'I want to be a gang member.' They look like wannabes then you know they're gonnabes, unless we get to them through our educational programs or the parents or the community," Hayes says.

Seven full-time officers will be assigned to the gang unit. It will be up and running in a couple of months.

As gang activity continues to rise, an increasing number of law enforcement agencies are trying to do something about it.

Fayetteville has three gang specialists, but the entire force receives gang training. Raleigh has two gang investigators. Chapel Hill has one officer with gang training.

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Lynda Loveland, Reporter
Joe Frieda, Photographer
Kamal Wallace, Web Editor

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