Gang Symposium: Short on solutions

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The US Department of Justice provided the funding for a symposium held in the Main Campus Auditorium at College of the Albemarle on Friday, Aug 21. The event was titled: “Gang Awareness Presentation”: From Sate & Federal Perspective.

The presentation began with a member of the Elizabeth City Gang Task Force introducing a pseudo-gang member in prison clothing, who officials identified as ‘Ghost.’ This man spoke about what gangs are and how they recruit members. Then after about 30 minutes, he removed his prison garb and identified himself as Gang Investigator Jose Hernandez with the Hoke County Sheriff Office.

What followed was a description of how gangs recruit new members and the violence that comes with this practice. The need for acceptance, either real or perceived, is the reason why females can become sex slaves and males submit to physical beatings of unimaginable proportions.


In the past, identifying gang members was fairly easy — based upon clothing, tattoos, and headgear. Now, however, gangs are aware of this and they use other means of dress, which appear more mainstream — calling less attention to themselves.

District Attorney Andrew Womble explained that as gangs are prosecuted in other more populated cities and towns, this type of criminal behavior gravitates to smaller towns such as Elizabeth City, with access to interstate highways. He commented that this problem will continue for quite a while.

Lisa Jayne, who coordinates an anti-gang operation in Fayetteville, showed a video about gang violence. Included was a video of the useless death of a young woman at the hands of her brother — an inadvertent use of a gun against another gang member.

Hernandez, the gang investigator, commented on the attitude of gang members as being thoughtless and heartless. His comments seemed to portray gang members in a way that is similar to how organized crime has been depicted in the movies, in how they protect each other as well as family members, all the while using that same violence against competing gangs.

Law Enforcement is unable to arrest its way out of the problem, said Hernandez. Citizens need to be better able to identify gang members and understand their methods. This Symposium seemed to be geared toward that.

But, we already know that there are some neighborhoods that cannot be entered without fear of being shot. So if we expected something about what is being done to reduce gang influence, this symposium fell short on that score.