“We have been saying, ‘Gangs are coming! Gangs are coming! We have to get ready for the gangs ...,’” said Juvenile Justice Center Director Terry Gallaher at Thursday’s Kiwanis luncheon. “Gangs are here. We’ve seen more evidence gangs are here in the last three months than we ever have before.”
Gallaher said he believes Bradley County and Cleveland are at a critical stage with their youth. He said he did not believe relations would ever be the same.
“I believe the reason for that is what we are seeing in Dalton (Ga.) and Hamilton County,” Gallaher said. “They are going to start dealing with those gangs down there. As they start dealing with them, those gangs are going to migrate. When they migrate they are going to be here, which is what we are seeing. [Gangs] are here.”
Continued Gallaher, “When my grandson is 15 years old in high school, and he starts to be bullied by a kid who is an active gang member, then I am going to be really, really upset. I am going to see what the school is doing about it and the juvenile court and sheriff’s department.”
Juvenile petitions have increased from 837 in 2010 to 1,073 in 2011. An increase was also seen from 2009’s 754 to 2010’s 837 juvenile petitions. Numbers have fluctuated from 750 to 950 since 2006. The jump from 2010 to 2011 was the largest one in several years.
Gallaher said now is not the time for community members to hide their heads in the sand.
“Gangs are coming and we are going to have to figure out how to manage it and how to deal with it,” Gallaher said. “Probably the best thing we can do is communicate with each other and partner — and I don’t mean that in a cliche way.”
“We need to be [partnering] for children and for the good of our community,” Gallaher said.
Nancy Stanfield, Youth Services officer, presented a slide show on the Bradley County Juvenile Justice Center.
According to official records, 33 gangs have been identified in Cleveland and Bradley County based on the 10-point system.
“When anybody is booked in over at the jail, they have a 10-point system. They ask questions and look for [identifying factors, like tattoos],” Stanfield said.
The 10-point system was developed by the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Points are given based on 10 different requirements. All 10 factors do not have to be met for a person to be identified as a gang member.
Stanfield said any person who admits gang membership or association is automatically identified.
Other factors which are part of the 10-point scale include:
- Is observed to associate on a regular basis with known gang members;
- Wears gang symbols to identify with a specific gang;
- Is in a photograph with known gang members and [in the photo is possibly] using gang-related hand signs; and
- Full or partial name or nickname is on a gang document such as Roll Call Sheet, hit list, or gang-related graffiti.
Some of the 33 adult gangs identified in Bradley County and Cleveland include the: Crips; White Supremacists, KKK, Brown Pride, Black Pistons, Latin Kings, Limited Few, Noteno, Sureno 13 and Gangster Disciple.
Records show the Aryan Nation has the most known adult gang involvement with 33 members. Gangster Disciple comes in second with 27 known members. Several gangs have only one known member with others growing, like the Juggalos at 11 known members.
Sureno 13 has 10 known members and the gang’s graffiti was found inside a local school within the last month.
Stanfield said a gang has also been identified at a local middle school with a 12-year-old as one of the gang’s members. She said the child’s father is an active gang member in another community. The 12-year-old reportedly has an in-depth understanding of the gang culture.
Stanfield works with troubled youth involved in a variety of criminal activities, including gang activity. She said it is not so much a matter of an individual being a bad person.
“I’m not saying that, but when I put you together and you together, it’s a bad mix,” Stanfield said. “Sometimes one of the hardest things to do is break these kids’ associations.”
Stanfield said community members can help by staying informed and alerting the authorities to new graffiti, or other gang activity, in the community.
Strides are being taken to help at-risk and troubled youth within the court system. Two programs, LEAF Academy and the Junior Master Gardener Program, take different avenues to address the disciplinary needs and mindsets of youth.
LEAF Academy is a six-week program separated between physical training in the morning and education in the afternoon. Students are met on their level and challenged to exceed their expectations.
The gardening program, JMGP, is a 25-week course often for students who need 200 or more hours of community service.
Only 15 youth were admitted for the program’s first year. Ricky Tallent, Youth Services officer, said the program was going great.