MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) - Major gangs like Bloods and Crips aren't just something one hears about in Los Angeles or New York; members of those gangs and other larger ones are setting up shop here in the Pee Dee and Grand Strand.
"Gangs are everywhere in every community, that's what we've seen in our 2009 to 2011 threat assessment. We find they're in every community," said Diedre Butler, who is the Director of the National Gang Intelligence Center.
Butler was addressing the more than 300 officers throughout the state who are attending the South Carolina Gang Investigators Association in Myrtle Beach this week. Butler was discussing how these gang members are finding a home in South Carolina, and what trends they're seeing on a national level
"They're being more sophisticated," Butler said. "They're getting involved in white collar crimes, money laundering credit card fraud, and they're migrating across the country."
Tim Ayers is the Vice President of the South Carolina Gang Investigator Association, and he agrees with Butler on what he and his team have been noticing.
"Criminals don't use the limits of the city, counties and state lines," Ayers said. "They go everywhere so we have restrictions on our certification where we can't cross those lines on things. By having someone I can call in another county and state, that's a big part of this conference, it builds that partnership."
Law enforcement officers not only have this annual conference to talk with one another about the gangs in their communities, but also a nationwide database which allows officers to know members and their identifiers like tattoos, signs and symbols.
Digital technology is something officers are using to spot trends and catch criminals who are finding affiliation with a gang.
The Richland County Sheriff's Department was awarded for their continued efforts to stop gang violence in their county on Monday. The five-member gang unit targets schools and mentor youth presently in gangs. The team's Senior Gang Investigator, Kelvin Griffin, said the trends he and his team have witnessed have to do with young women getting pulled into the world of gangs.
"That's also one of the big trends we're seeing: hybrids gangs involve like with a national gang like a blood crip, and they claim an area they might be a Myrtle Beach Blood, and females are even developing their own gangs."
Griffin said 60 to 80 percent of the criminal activity in their community is associated with gangs.
Gangs are described as officers being five or more people using criminal behavior and identifying themselves with a sign or symbol. Most of the gang members according to officers are targeting middle and high school aged children to join.
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