Concerned citizens produce local Gang Reference Manual

By Joe McGehee
Staff Writer

Recently, concerned citizens from the Rock River Valley collaborated to create a Gang Reference Manual aimed at helping to increase gang awareness at a time when gang membership—and its resulting violence—are growing exponentially.

The manual is meant to be used as a guide, and is in no way a complete source for gang information. However, it provides parents, teachers and others enough credible information to illustrate the dangers of gang membership to children.

“We put the reference manual together because the Rockford Police Department and the city administration has historically minimized and marginalized the scope of Rockford’s gang crisis,” said a group member who wished to remain anonymous. “The reference manual was a collaboration between citizens and former gang members.”

The information in the manual is focused on gangs found in Rockford and covers topics like gang structure, the two gang nations present in Rockford, how gangs represent or identify themselves and the meanings associated with gang graffiti. The manual also provides adults with a solid informational foundation for discussing the perils of joining a gang with children.

“Parents, teachers and adults in general need more information to show kids the ramifications of becoming a member of a gang,” the group member said. “If the information in this manual can keep one kid from joining a gang, then we view it as a success.”

Click on the following link to read the Gang Reference Manual in pdf format: Gang Reference Manual nid

Gangs threaten safety, security across the nation

The National Gang Threat Assessment 2009, which was a collaborative effort between the National Gang Intelligence Center (NGIC) and the National Drug Intelligence Center (NDIC), examined the threat posed to the U.S. by criminal gangs. The assessment is based on federal, state and local law enforcement information and was supplemented by information retrieved from open sources.

The 2009 assessment paints a clear picture of the size of the gang problem in the U.S. by stating: “Approximately 1 million gang members belonging to more than 20,000 gangs were criminally active within all 50 states and the District of Columbia as of September 2008.”

The nation is not only facing a growing gang problem, but it is also facing a traveling gang problem. Gang members have been migrating from urban areas to suburban and rural communities for well more than two decades. The 2009 assessment lists “expanding drug distribution territories, increasing illicit revenue, recruiting new members, hiding from law enforcement and escaping other gangs” as possible motives for gangs leaving their urban stomping grounds.

Also, the information contained in the 2009 assessment points to many national gangs becoming wholesale distributors of drugs, as many Latin gangs have connections with Mexican drug trafficking outfits. The assessment states: “They also are increasingly distributing wholesale-level quantities of marijuana and cocaine in most urban and suburban communities.”

The assessment also painted a bleak picture of the future of gang-related issues by stating: “Most regions in the United States will experience increased gang membership, continued migration of gangs to suburban and rural areas, and increased gang-related criminal activity. Gang-related violence is very likely to remain at high levels or increase as gangs expand their criminal operations into suburban and rural areas.”

From the Feb. 17-23, 2010 issue

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