NC street gangs growing, carrying more powerful guns than police, Governor's Crime Commission says

Akilah Davis Image
Thursday, March 2, 2023
Street gangs growing in NC, Governor's Crime Commission says
There are an estimated 14,000 gang members in North Carolina, according to a recent report from the crime commission.

RALEIGH, N.C. (WTVD) -- The Governor's Crime Commission said people living in some places in North Carolina feel like they're living in a war zone because of the violent gang activity nearby.

The commission revealed that street gangs are growing and now carrying more powerful weapons than police officers. Recent crime reports found that there are an estimated 14,000 gang members in North Carolina, with an average age of 18-25.

Wake County reportedly has the highest concentration of gang members in the state.

"At nighttime, you would hear gunshots, majority of the nights I heard gunshots. We grew up with the mantra of hit the floor, meaning when we heard gunshots, my uncle told us to stop what we were going and hit the floor," Raleigh activist Kerwin Pittman said.

Pittman knows what life is like on the streets.

By the age of 15, Pittman, who grew up in south Raleigh, was a member of a gang in his community.

As a teen, he was enamored by the gang lifestyle. He shared how easy it is to fall victim to the streets.

"It's easy to see them as a big brother and big sister," he said. "It is extremely easy to be caught up in glitz and glamour of seeing somebody leading the gang. This is somebody who you know, who is respected in your community."

Leaders across the state, including Raleigh Police Chief, Senate President Pro-Tem, judges Commissioners and other law enforcement officials, all attended the meeting Thursday.

Presenters told attendees that gangs are using children to carry out violence and traffic young girls.

"They thrive on perceptions that this community is cast aside, that they are forgotten, that nobody cares about these kids. The gangs go to where the lost are," said Michael Easley, US Attorney for the Eastern District of North Carolina. "Frankly, they do a better job of going where the lost are than we do. We've got to show that law enforcement is there to work for the community,"

SEE ALSO: Crimes increase by nearly 17% in NC schools last academic year: DPI Report

They also report drug cartels partnering with local gangs, which has led to more money on the streets and more overdoses.

"It's the same old song," Pittman said. Nothing new under the sun. For me, it was reminiscent of how long are we going to be playing this same tune. When will we deploy solutions that work?"

Pittman served 11 years in prison. Now he says he is a changed man. He serves on two of the governor's task forces, runs a nonprofit and is a lobbyist working to get lawmakers to make policies that help communities that gang leaders prey on.

For people struggling to find their way out of the gang lifestyle, Pittman had one key statement of advice:

"Find somebody who is doing somebody positive and stick with them like your life depends on," he said. "I'm a Black man coming back to redeem the community I once helped to destroy."

Statistics from the Governor's Crime Commission revealed that there are more than 99 gangs operating in Wake and 2,600 members. In Durham, there are 41 gangs and more than 1,200 members.

MORE: ABC11 Neighborhood Safety Crime Tracker

The state hopes to use grant money to deal with some of these issues and make communities safer.