Task force releases report on Charlottesville-area gang activity
Bloods have most most members among area organizations
The local task force on Gang Reduction through Active Community Engagement released a report last week finding that 183 gang members have been reported as active in Charlottesville and Albemarle County between 2006 and 2013.
According to the report, between Jan. 1, 2010 and Sept. 1, 2013, 480 criminal offenses were committed involving gang members.
GRACE was created in June 2012 and was asked to implement the Comprehensive Gang Model endorsed by the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, a sector of the U.S. Department of Justice. Maryfrances Porter was hired by GRACE to conduct this comprehensive assessment, and the group began collecting data last year.
“The GRACE task force established a workgroup of their members and they worked with me to be in contact with the people we interviewed and to gain access to data included in the report,” Porter said.
Porter and her team spoke with 141 individuals likely to have an understanding of the workings of gangs in the area, including patrol officers and detectives. Outside of law enforcement, they spoke with individuals who are currently incarcerated on probation or on parole as well as residents in neighborhoods with a strong presence of gang violence.
Charlottesville and Albemarle County currently have 16 active gangs, according to the report. The most popular group is the Bloods. Crips, Westside, PJC and MS-13 also have a heavy local presence, as well as several local gangs with national affiliates.
According to the assessment, the largest number of gang related activities have occurred in downtown Charlottesville, as well as around Prospect Avenue and South 1st Street. They found that in these areas gang members are targeting youth members.
According to interviews gathered in the assessment, youth are drawn to gangs “[because of] a desire for sense of family and belonging, but also for income, opportunity, power, leadership, and even a sense of greater good that some feels gangs provide.”
The Charlottesville Police Department is looking for ways to better deal with this situation.
Charlottesville Police spokesperson Ronnie Roberts said he believes that may be necessary to address some of the prevention methods already in place to prevent youth from being recruited by gangs. Steve Sellers, Albemarle County chief of police, agreed.
“[The report] is going to inform our action planning process using existing resources that are already here like faith communities and boys and girls clubs,” Sellers said.
Despite these large numbers of crimes related to gangs, gang violence is not pervasive enough to affect all residents in the Albemarle-Charlottesville areas, according to the report. The gang problem pales in comparison to larger cities, and the report says this leaves many residents unaware that there are even gangs in the area.