Local News

Durham Police: Gang Activity Rises as Groups Lure Children

Posted February 1, 2001 6:00 a.m. EST

— Blue and red are not just colors in Durham. They represent a way of life for some people. As gangs entice younger children, Durham police are seeing more instances of gang-related crimes.

Durham Police Cpl. Dale Gunter heads up the city's gang unit. He says gang activity in the Bull City is increasing.

In July, three teenage boys shot themselves in their legs to enhance their status in the gang. Last month, a 13-year-old female gang member robbed a Chapel Hill bank. Just two weeks ago, a fight between Bloods and Crips led to a shooting on a city bus.

"The youngest I've ever seen is 8 [years old]," Gunter said. "The people that run the gangs know that they can take a young child and mold them into whatever they want. They have a working machine that's going to take orders without question."

Judge Marcia Morey sees many of Durham's young gang members in her courtroom. She says detention is not always the answer.

"We have to do more to identify who is in [gangs], identify who the leaders are and get them on the positive track with the right people," she said.

The Police Department's gang unit tries to clean graffiti within 24 hours of it being reported. They also give presentations to civic groups, parents and educators to teach more about gangs.

"We're attacking it with enforcement, we're attacking it with intelligence and we're attacking it with education," Gunter said.

Many kids join gangs to enjoy a sense of belonging. Gunter says the people who can make the biggest difference are parents.

"If you don't pay attention to your kid, someone on the street will," he said.