The Vance County Juvenile Crime Prevention Council (JCPC) presented the results of its recent Gang Assessment to community leaders and citizenry at the Maria Parham Medical Center yesterday evening.
A PowerPoint presentation was the centerpiece of the meeting, at it may be viewed here. The agenda for the meeting may be viewed here.
The state funded the assessment for the purpose gathering a baseline of information on gangs in North Carolina and to support gang prevention and intervention program implementation. In addition to the JCPC, the Kerr-Tar Regional Council of Governments, the City of Henderson, Vance County Schools, the Vance County Sheriff’s Office, and others participated in gathering the information.
Results of the assessment showed that participants viewed youth gangs as an increasing problem in Vance County. Causes of gang activity were felt to be a lack of youth activities, family or peer influence, and the effects of poverty. Surveyed community members felt that solutions to youth gangs include jobs and jobs training, mentoring, and youth programs.
School staff felt that bullying was a primary concern in elementary and middle schools, while in high school the major gang-related concern is fighting and assaults. Staff members believe that gang activity is increasing, and identify causes for joining youth gangs as peer pressures, lack of connection with adults, and bullying.
60% of students reported a gang presence in their schools, and 32% of students reported gangs in their neighborhoods. 14% of student survey participants were self-reporting gang members. These students said that they joined a gang out of a need for respect, fun, friendship, and protection. The students also reported that their gangs are well-organized with symbols, colors, rules, and leadership.
Members of Vance’s law enforcement community said that a lack of systematic methods of data collection hampers their ability to complete an accurate picture of gang activity in Vance County. Law enforcement officers identified gang involvement primarily in assaults, simple assaults, and vandalism, with an upward trend toward robbery and drug offenses. Law enforcement identified 17 active gangs and 34 groups that self-identify as gangs. These gangs are centered around Henderson.
Up to 50% of community respondents to the survey cited gang concerns of increased drug activity, increased weapons crime, violent crime, and property crime. They also feared for their safety due to gangs.
46% of those participating perceive gang activity increasing in the last two years. 52% reported that they are “not satisfied” with the current type or level of community response.
The survey recommended that Vance County create a Youth Gang Task Force to review the survey’s findings.