Officials hold gang violence conference

DURHAM The meeting is part of the 2008 gangs across the Carolinas training conference.

"We have to make gangs as reprehensible as white supremacy groups, KKK, Skinheads, Nazis and I put gangs on the same plateau as them," said Mark Bridgeman with the North Carolina Gang Investigators Association.

It's a growing problem in North Carolina, from a brawl at a Raleigh mall, to a double shooting on NC State's campus, gang related violence is increasing.

Experts say there are more than 550 different gangs across the state, with nearly 15,000 members and that number's are going up. That's why more than 700 law enforcement personnel from federal, state and local levels are spending three days together focusing on gang education, prevention and enforcement.

"Such networking lets us deal with the gang situation here so we can minimize it. The elimination of the gang problem's a community thing," Durham Police Chief Jose Lopez said.

That means calling police if you suspect gang activity in your neighborhood or mentoring young children on the dangers of gangs.

"You think that they are your friends, you think they're your family. They are not. They are a criminal enterprise, in it for themselves," said Henry Lescault with the Charlotte Field Division of the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco & Firearms.

Officials say the seminar is one way North Carolina officials are working to crack down a dangerous way of life that continues to infiltrate the public.

"They're causing panic and fear in our neighborhoods, your neighborhoods, and in our schools," Bridgeman said.

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