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‘We can’t bury our heads’

RICH SQUARE – The concerned citizens that gathered at the Willow Oak AME Church were in for a shock last Saturday, but ultimately left with knowledge about a growing problem facing their community.

The Northampton County Sheriff’s Office joined forces with 6B District Attorney’s Office to bring a presentation about gang awareness to Northampton County.

“I was shocked to find it was out here,” said Reverend James Baker whose church held the event. “We can’t bury our heads.”

Baker said when he found out about gang activity in the area he called Northampton County Sheriff Wardie Vincent.

“We told him we would help him in anyway,” he said. “It’s a disgrace. If we can go to Iraq, we can solve a problem here.”

The phone call resulted in the presentation being held at the church.

Guest speakers from both from the sheriff’s office and D.A.’s office educated the attendees about gang structure, symbols, colors and mentalities. Also on the table were ways to prevent children from joining gangs through parenting and reasons for individuals to join gangs.

“Grown folk, if you’re involved in a gang, that’s on you,” said Iris Williams from the D.A.’s Office. “Children, if you’re in a gang, that’s on us.”

Williams filled in for D.A.Valerie Asbell who was subpoenaed to Raleigh the day of the presentation.

“Your D.A. is there for you, the door swings both ways,” she said. “Feel free to call us, but talk to your children about gangs.”

Drug Recognition Expert Eddie Buffaloe Jr. showed photos of gang graffiti left in Northampton County towns like Garysburg, Gaston, Seaboard and Rich Square.

“Yes there are gangs here,” he said.

While most of the graffiti were from gangs like the Bloods and the Crips, other gang names have also been popping up.

Buffaloe said gangs offer the same facets as a family in the form of love, security and guidance.

“Families and gangs have common traits,” he said, “but gangs take negative effects.”

In a power point presentation, Buffalo showed a list of facets offered by families and by gangs, the only difference between the two was gangs offered things like guns and drugs.

“My parents drug me, they drug me everywhere, to school, to church,” joked Buffaloe.

Returning to the presentation, he suggested a reason why children turn to gangs.

“Why? It may be things they’re missing at home,” he said.

Buffaloe listed ways to identify children that may be involved with a gang; poor academics, a lack of interest in school, large blocks of unsupervised time, frequent contact with police, conflict at home, tattoos on body, graffiti and hand signals.

He explained gangs are headed by the oldest gang member or “OG.”

Buffaloe said in order for gang members to move up in the ranks or to be initiated they must prove their loyalty to the OG by committing acts of violence and bring back proof of that a crime has been committed.

Graffiti or “tagging” is used to declare a gang’s territory.

A myriad of different symbols are used by gangs and for most at first glance, the symbol may look like something harmless such as a star or a pitchfork.

But Buffaloe revealed sometimes the ordinary can be menacing.

Crips will use a six pointed star while the Bloods will use a five pointed star to mark their area. Not only are the stars synonymous with gangs, but the numbers and colors are as well.

A color used by the Bloods is red, which is often displayed in bandanas and baseball caps, whereas the Crips are known for displaying blue and/or black colors.

He said some signs are less recognizable in the forms of artistic drawings of gang names that are hard to decipher.

“They don’t spell it out,” he said.

Buffalo shared his experiences as an officer.

Sport jerseys have also been used in gang wardrobe.

Agent L. Clements with the Northampton Sheriff’s Office said Carolina blue and Michael Jordan’s number 23 Chicago Bulls jersey is often worn by gang members.

Referring to a North Carolina baseball hat, she asked the audience how many of them had a cap resembling it.

“Turn it around and you have CN, Crip Nation,” she said pointing to the NC on the cap.

Clements also referred to Jordan’s number 23 jersey.

“Add two to three and what do you have?” she asked.

“Five,” the audience responded.

“And what color is Michael Jordan’s jersey? Red,” she inquired.

Also included in gangster apparel is short hair, shaved or bald heads, white oversized t-shirts or polo shirts and low riding pants. Name brands such as Dickies or Ben Davis might also be worn by gang members.

Buffaloe said females will often use a lot of mousse, gel or baby oil in their hair, wear black or dark clothing and shoes, oversize jackets and white t-shirts.

He said female gang members will often wear what are called “baller bands” otherwise known as colorful sport bracelets, which are a current trend for high school students.

“If they pluck it, you have to do anything they say, sometimes sexually,” he said.

Clements explained further about females in gangs holding up different color bandanas for girls pink bandanas for Bloods and light blue for Crips.

“They still keep their ladyhood,” she said referring to the lighter more feminine colors.

Clements went on to explain part of the initiation for a female into a gang.

“You have to have sex with every man in that gang,” she said. “Girls your body is your temple. Unless it’s your daddy, no man can do what you can do for yourself.”

Clements showed a red belt with “Bloods” written on it. The belt had been confiscated from a student, who wore the belt as a part of his uniform.

“If we want kids to wear uniforms, we need to enforce it,” she said. “It’s a good idea, but we need to enforce it.”

Clements also showed beaded bracelets that tell the rank of gang members.

When an audience member voiced concern about having to change their wardrobe, Clements explained the presentation wasn’t to tell citizens what to wear.

“I’m not asking you to change your dress code,” she said. “I’m here to inform you.”

Buffaloe said citizens should call their local law enforcement if they suspect any gang activity.

“Report everything you see,” he said. “If there’s graffiti, get it off immediately and report it. We don’t want your name, just the information.”

The topic of parental guidance also came up in the presentation.

Both Buffaloe and Clements stressed that parents need to be mindful of what they buy their children and enforcing rules within their home.

Clements said parents should make sure when their children go to school they are wearing their uniforms properly and know where their children are going.

“I have a 12 year old; there are no closed doors in my house. What I buy, I own,” she said.

Buffaloe suggested that if parents or guardians suspected their child was in a gang to “keep that child as close as you can.”

Reverend Baker echoed the advice laid out by Clements and Buffaloe.

“We have to demonstrate our love for our children,” said Baker. “We need to take back our home and take back our community.”