From extreme violence to simple graffiti, gang-related incidents are on the rise in North Carolina’s Mecklenburg County, says the Charlotte Observer. The number of gang members has remained steady since 2006 at more than 1,800, but incidents involving gang members increased more than 25 percent through November, to 1,173 from 935 over the same period last year. Strong gang presence in some neighborhoods led Police Chief Rodney Monroe to assign more detectives to investigate gang crime. The unit also has more power since a state gang law took effect this week. It allows for harsher penalties for gang-related crimes like drive-by shootings.
Youth gangs range from homegrown to national and international in scope, such as Los Angeles-based Bloods and Crips and El Salvador-based MS-13. The police department’s Gang Intelligence Unit has been recast as an aggressive squad that pursues suspected gang-member defendants by knocking on front doors and patrolling. The trick is to identify the leaders and core criminal gang elements, said Charlotte police Capt. Stephen Willis: “It’s too hard to go out there and dismantle all the gangs. We want to be able to take off the head and also the arms and legs.”