New gang numbers may be misleading

RALEIGH However, officials are quick to caution everyone because the numbers could be misleading.

The March 2009 gang report updates members of the Governor's Crime Commission on the number of gangs in the state.

To view "Gangs in North Carolina: A 2009 Report to the General Assembly," click here.

In 2008, there were 594 gangs reported. That number jumped to 855 gangs this year.

Although the number of gangs has increased, officials say numbers can be misleading.

"We expect an increase as more agencies become involved with Gangnet and start entering their info into the system," explained Doug Yearwood, NC Criminal Analysis Center. "We will see a rise in that number, but it may not be a true reflection in actual gang members across the state."

Gangnet is a gang intelligence database that allows nearly 2,000 law enforcement officials to enter gang activity along with the names of gang members.

That information is then used to determine a more accurate look at the gang presence in NC. Those results will also play a major role in how money is spent for gang prevention.

"The Crime Commission looks at the figures and the data that we have from our studies when they make their funding decisions [and decide] how they are going to allocate the gang funds," Yearwood said.

Programs like Club Tech Turnaround in Durham benefit from gang grants. Its organizers counter recruit gang members to keep them off the street.

Although Durham and Raleigh have seen an increase in gang presence, they say it's not on the level of some other major cities.

"We still don't have a problem," Yearwood said. "When you think of gangs, you think of California, L.A., Chicago. North Carolina doesn't have the caliber of a problem yet."

They say the number one area in the state with a gang presence is Charlotte. New Hanover County also tops the list for gang activity.

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