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Lawmen are serious over gang activity

MURFREESBORO – Serious, that one word best describes how local, state and federal law enforcement officials feel about the threat of gangs.

With gang activity on the rise in eastern North Carolina, lawmen from Kinston to Elizabeth City and all points in-between met at Chowan University on Tuesday to learn more about what they can do to alleviate this growing problem.

The all-day event, held at the Robert Marks Hall auditorium, was presented by officials with the FBI’s National Gang Intelligence Center in conjunction with the North Carolina Gang Investigation Association.

Roanoke-Chowan area county and municipal law enforcement agencies were represented among the 115 attendees.

“The purpose of holding symposiums such as this is to educate and coordinate gang investigation efforts,” said FBI Agent Dan Snow of Elizabeth City. “It’s all about raising awareness and bringing together federal, state and local officials in order to address the rising threat of gang activity in our part of the state.”

Snow said the symposium covered strategies to combat gangs, gang intervention, regional trends and presented case scenarios. Additionally, the officers learned about gang signs and graffiti and also were updated on pending gang-related legislation.

“The good thing here is that you have a chance to get and remain ahead of the curve before the gangs can become better organized,” Snow said.

Hertford County Sheriff Juan Vaughan said he was extremely pleased with the material made available to local law enforcement officials.

“This was very educational for us,” Vaughan said. “There’s no doubt that we have gangs attempting to become better organized here in Hertford County as well as our neighboring counties. These types of seminars allow all of us to become better educated on how to deal with gangs.”

Sheriff Vaughan added that one of biggest attributes of Tuesday’s symposium was the chance to interact with other eastern North Carolina law enforcement agencies as well as state and federal officials.

“From talking with the other officers in our region I was able to learn where they stood as far as gangs and gang-related activity is concerned within their jurisdictions,” Vaughan said. “Some have experienced certain problems we haven’t seen of yet here in Hertford County. We’re all in agreement that getting a leg up on these problems will help us in the long run.”

Murfreesboro Police Chief Darrell Rowe said cooperation among the different levels of law enforcement was critical in staying ahead of the gangs.

“We already have that cooperation among the agencies here in Hertford County,” Rowe said. “We’ve got to combat this problem together and meet it head on. If we wait for gangs to become entrenched then we’ve got a big problem.”

Rowe said judging by Tuesday’s turnout, there are plenty of other law enforcement agencies who think that gangs are a serious problem.

“Gangs are nothing more than in-town or in-county terrorists,” Rowe noted. “A terrorist is a terrorist, no matter what nationality they are. This country has shown and we here locally will show that we will use every available resource to combat terrorism.”

Sheriff Vaughan closed by thanking Agent Snow and HCSO Captain Raymond Eure for orchestrating the symposium as well as thanking Chowan University and its Chief of Campus Police, Derek Burke, for their hospitality.

Based on the success of previously held public forums regarding gang awareness, Vaughan said more of those events will be scheduled in the near future. He said getting the public to understand what to be on the lookout for in regards to gangs and gang-type activity will go a long way in helping local law enforcement combat the problem.

The National Gang Intelligence Center integrates the gang intelligence assets of the FBI and other federal, state and local law enforcement entities to serve as a centralized intelligence resource for gang information and analytical support. Its mission is to support law enforcement agencies through timely and accurate information sharing and strategic/tactical analysis of federal, state and local law enforcement intelligence focusing on the growth, migration, criminal activity and association of gangs that pose a significant threat to communities throughout the United States.