Local News

Small Towns Getting Big-City Gangs

Posted November 29, 2007 5:55 p.m. EST
Updated November 30, 2007 9:21 a.m. EST

— Downtown Roxboro looks like it was lifted right off a postcard, with old storefronts lined with American flags, but amid that small-town charm, gang issues are on the rise.

"It's place you want to bring your family to settle down," resident Paul Owens said.

Among those new residents, however, are gang members, police say. Roxboro old-timers said they, too, have noticed the trend.

"We get a lot of traffic from Durham this way now," resident Ricky Chandler said. "Since (U.S. Highway) 501 is wide open, it's a wide shot here."

Last year, the Roxboro Police Department added a part-time officer to deal exclusively with gang issues. The officer, who wished to remain anonymous, said he believes there are 30 documented gang members in Roxboro.

"We'll see guys with the colors, the tattoos or the burns," he said.

The officer said he believes that Roxboro holds appeal for gang members living in larger cities, such as Durham and Raleigh.

"When they come to a small town like Roxboro, they're able to have more so-called rank here," he said.

Police track areas where gang members live and have documented a growing graffiti problem. Gangs are behind an increasing drug trade, officers said.

"I think we've all realized there's an issue here," Roxboro Police Chief Jeff Insley said, adding that Roxboro needs to act quickly to deal with the issue. He has been pushing for the department to add a full-time gang officer and to conduct more gang-awareness training.

"A lot of folks move here because we maintain the small town image," Insley said. "You'd like to see it stay. You don't want a lot of change, but some's going to come."

The county's Juvenile Crime Prevention Council plans to hold a gang-awareness training session at 9 a.m. Tuesday in the Human Services Building, 355-B S. Madison Blvd. The meeting will be open to the public.