From http://www.wbtv.com, November 3, 2015
Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police say the number of gang members in Charlotte is down, but the problems they cause are up.
Anchor Molly Grantham sat down to talk one-on-one with Captain Mike Harris, who is over the unit in Charlotte Mecklenburg Police that fights gangs in Charlotte.
“Gangs are smarter than they were three or four years ago,” he said. “Not all gangs show colors. Not all gangs show hand signs and gestures. A lot of times, it’s Facebook and Instagram and Snapchat. That’s how they now communicate.”
Captain Harris also says Charlotte is a city of transportation ease. Great for many of us who can get across the county in 20 minutes, but that same fact makes fighting gangs difficult.
“It’s easy to get from Point A to Point B,” he said. “City buses, rental cars, personal cars gang members own… they can get places fast. It’s not as much about turf. So you have people who live in, gang members who live in the east side of Charlotte, who don’t commit any crime in east Charlotte. They commit it all in west Charlotte or northwest Charlotte.”
Captain Harris says that means there aren’t as many neighborhood gangs in Charlotte. They’re more mobile and less organized than traditional gangs.
It was 2010 the last time WBTV had asked CMPD for statistics on how many documented – or, known – gangs and gang members were in Mecklenburg County. At that time we had been told there were about 2,000 known gang members and about 150 known gangs.
“Approximately 75 documented gangs,” Captain Harris said. “And roughly 800 documented gang members.”
Captain Harris says there’s a variety of reasons for the drop – gangs merge and people are deported and fall off the local lists – but the main reason, he says, is if gang members are no longer flashing signs or wearing certain colors, they’re not as easy to document.
He also gave us the seven gangs causing the most problems for his officers in Charlotte-Mecklenburg.
- Hidden Valley Kings
- The Jack Boys
- Kut Throat Killers
Those final three area all gangs specific to Charlotte. Police say the Hidden Valley Kings are mostly located in the Hidden Valley neighborhood of northeast Charlotte, and The Jack Boys and Kut Throat Killers are located mostly in the northeast part of Mecklenburg County.
Captain Harris also said The Jack Boys and the Kut Throat Killers are big into local narcotics, violent criminal acts and property crimes.
“When we put pressure through our investigations on these gangs,” he said, “it pushes a lot of them back into the shadows and to stop committing crimes.”
Captain Harris also says its “gang unit” is no longer using that name.
“We’re the anti-crime unit,” he said. “We have a division called ‘Covert Operations’. That’s my division. Within that division we have three functions – our local version of ABC that deals with clubs and ABC violations – traditional vice and narcotics and the third part of covert operations is not the ‘anti-crime unit’. That’s what gangs fall under.”
Captain Harris says they combined what used to be separate units into this one division to go after a broader spectrum of violent offenders.
“We didn’t want to be pigeon-holed, so to speak, into only going after gangs,” he said. “We didn’t want to forget a group of people committing crimes that might not fit ‘gangs’ but are still doing criminal activity and committing violent offenses.”
He says there are three sergeants in this division and approximately 30 detectives and two analysts. All, he says, are trained on knowing what to look for and how to combat gangs.
“Bottom line,” Captain Harris said, “we’re going after violent offenders and violent groups regardless of their title.”