Local News

Gang activity up in Wake County schools

Posted August 11, 2008 11:19 p.m. EDT
Updated August 12, 2008 7:28 a.m. EDT

— The Wake County Public School System if looking for ways to combat a growing gang problem.

In recent weeks, a melee at Raleigh's Triangle Town Center mall and a shooting on the campus of North Carolina State University have highlighted the capital city's growing gang problem, which Raleigh Police Chief Harry Dolan described as "significant."

"If there is more happening in the community, sometimes that carries over to the schools as well,” Marvin Connelly Jr., Wake County schools assistant superintendent, said.

Connelly said gang activity is up in the school system. Last year, there were 692 gang incidents, compared with 520 the year before, a 33 percent increase.

"One incident is too many for us. So we are certainly are very concerned about any violation of board policies,” Connelly said.

Fifty percent of the gang-related incidents last year happened in the high schools, with 49 percent in middle schools

“You know, nobody wakes up in the morning and says, 'I want to join a gang,'” former gang member C.J. Blair said.

Blair said he joined the Crips gang when he was 12 years old.

"A gang offers affirmation, it offers support, it offers camaraderie,” he said.

Blair said that while he was in a gang, he was jailed and shot. These days, he works to keep teens out of gangs.

He said schools need to do more to discourage students from pursuing a gang lifestyle.

"I think they need to do a better job of engaging students, but first you have to find out what the students are in to,” he said.

The school system has programs to identify and prevent gang activity. Officials said the number of gang-related incidents are up, in part,  because the school system is doing a better job of identifying gang activity.

According to a recent study, there are 13 recognized gangs in Wake County, with the Bloods being the most prominent. There are about 2,400 known gang members or associates in the county. Associates are members who might not live in the area, but who have spent considerable time or have been arrested locally.

Wake and Durham counties are sharing in a $2.5 million federal grant to combat gang activity, and Wake County also received $1.4 million from the state – Durham got $1.2 million – to fight gangs.

Recent legislation signed into law by Gov. Mike Easley also increases the punishment for crimes committed by gang members. Lawmakers set aside $10 million in the budget to pay for the anti-gang measure.