NC Network for Safe Communities was tasked with creating a survey for distribution at the 2015 North Carolina Gang Investigator’s Conference and Gang Free North Carolina Academy. 394 law enforcement and community resource partners participated in the survey representing nearly every county in NC. Main findings were that:
All types of gangs are present and active in NC communities, though local neighborhood crews were the most commonly reported. 68% of respondents reported that gang membership in their community has increased over the past two years, while 26% of respondents reported that gang membership has stayed the same.
When asked about the most violent group in their community, national-level street groups were most often identified, as mentioned by 49% of respondents. Local crews were identified as the most violent group type by 45% of respondents. These local neighborhood groups are prevalent, active, and often violent in communities, meaning they need the same level of LE and resource attention as more organized, hierarchical national-level gangs.’
Respondents revealed that gangs are present in schools in 74% of communities. Of those communities with a gang presence in schools, 25% reported gangs are present in elementary schools, 78% reported gangs are present in middle/junior high schools, and 80% reported gangs are present in high schools.
1.3% of respondents reported an increase in their community in international terrorist groups, 26% have seen an increase in Sovereign groups, and 13% have seen an increase in hate-motivated group activity.
Gangs are using social media readily. 76% of LE respondents were aware of gangs using social media to communicate with one another. 51% of LE respondents stated that their agency frequently integrates social media for gang investigations. 18% rarely or never do.
Several barriers to gang member arrest and/or conviction were identified. The most common barrier was lack of victim/witness cooperation due to fear of retaliation, codes about not snitching, and the fact that many witnesess/victims are often involved in criminal activity themselves. Many respondents mentioned overburdened systems as barriers.
The most common services respondents reported providing to gang-involved individuals were often youth-oriented, including pro-social activities, after-school programs, and positive alternatives. Employment services and vocational training were also commonly mentioned. Unfortunately, 38% of all respondents, regardless of agency type, reported that they rarely feel they have the resources needed to address gang-related issues.
Our partners in Statesville/Iredell Couty held their first-ever call-in for domestic violence offenders on Tuesday, September 23, 2014. According to Capt. Dan Miglin of the Statesville Police Department, there were some 2,832 cases of domestic violence investigated in Iredell County in 2013. Statesville/Iredell modeled their initiative after High Point’s Offender Focused Domestic Violence Initiative. The North Carolina Network for Safe Communities has been in partnership with the High Point Police Department since the planning stages of their domestic violence strategy and been in partnership with Statesville/Iredell since 2009 in assisting them with implementation of their initial focused deterrence strategy to combat gang violence.
With the domestic violence focused deterrence strategy, offenders with requisite records for domestic violence offenses are called in for a face-to-face meeting with the community, law enforcement, and resource partners to hear one clear, unified message: DOMESTIC VIOLENCE IS WRONG AND IT WILL NO LONGER BE TOLERATED.
The domestic violence call-in is similar to the chronic offender and gang/group call-ins which Statesville/Iredell has used in the past to send a stern message to violent offenders. However, the messaging is changed to be specific to the domestic violence offender. Offenders are educated about the potential prosecutorial levers that exist to use against domestic violence offenders in both the state and federal systems. They are warned that if they choose to reoffend with domestic violence after the call-in meeting, then law enforcement will follow up with swift, certain, and severe consequences. A prior victim of domestic violence spoke to offenders about the horrible consequences that their behavior has on children reared in homes where they witness domestic violence. Moral voice speakers from the community offered a message of support to help offenders with issues that may be related to their use of violence, but the support was backed with a firm statement that domestic violence is wrong.
Offenders’ anonymity was stripped and their behavior was brought to the forefront of both law enforcement and the community during the call-in. Domestic violence is no longer a secret in Statesville/Iredell County and partners are taking a clear stand against it through implementation of the domestic violence focused deterrence strategy. We wish them the best of luck and applaud their efforts!
The September 2014 edition of the Middle District of NC’s newsletter from the United States Attorney’s Office includes an article which summarizes the latest evidence regarding how deterrence works to prevent crime. The article takes the following points from Daniel Nagin’s work, all of which lend support to the focused deterrence strategy as an effective way to deter violent crime:
1) The certainty of being caught is a vastly more powerful deterrent than the punishment.
2) Sending an offender to prison isn’t a very effective way to deter crime.
3) Police deter crime by increasing the perception that criminals will be caught.
4) Increasing the severity of punishment does little to deter crime.
5) There is no proof that the death penalty deters criminals.