HORRY COUNTY, SC (WMBF) - Gangs are becoming a growing issue in Horry County.
Law enforcement agencies are teaming up at the 6th Annual SC Gang Conference to squash this problem once and for all. The goal is to get on the same page to tackle gang violence. About 300 law enforcement officers, from as far away as Arizona, are gathering for this several-day conference. It's a perfect way for law enforcement to get information on national and local gang threats. This way agencies can build a network, to help each other work cases in other districts.
Leaders at the Conway Police Department say gangs are spreading in Horry County for a few reasons. For one, gangs like to establish territory in a place where gangs haven't been yet. Officers say they are seeing a lot of hybrid gangs, meaning it's often people related to one another or friends.
For those who grew up in the area, it is concerning to know gangs are here and potentially jeopardizing our kids' futures. "It's really not fair to them because they should be able to go outside and play and not have to worry about getting hurt or seeing things that they don't need to see the drugs, the violence, because it changes them as children. And they come up and they see that. And then, the older they get, it becomes more and more normal," says Valetta Burgess who grew up on Canal Street.
Tim Ayers is the President of the South Carolina Gangs Investigators Association. He says the shootings and murders during Memorial Day Weekend last year are a total result of gang member violence. And in Horry County, they're seeing more biker club gangs, Red Devils, Bloods, and Hispanic gangs.
Ayers says the biggest success story is the Hells Angels Case from 2011. Twenty-seven Hells Angels and Red Devils were arrested and five were convicted in the case for racketeering. This was the first successful case ever to be prosecuted. They did this through the partnerships they developed at this conference.
Mothers Against Violence is a local organization of mothers who have lost children to violence. The group's leader says it's not just about police taking action, but taking responsibility to teach and protect our kids.
"Teach them while they're small and let them know, don't be a part of it, if someone comes to you and asks you about - 'come and go with me' or 'join my group,' they have to be taught while they're young to not take part of it," says Elizabeth Bowens, the President of SC Mothers Against Violence Cooperation.
Click here for a list of signs from the Georgetown County Sheriff's Office to look out for to protect your kids from getting sucked into gang life.