08/27/14 — Chief: Gangs are in city

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Chief: Gangs are in city

By John Joyce
Published in News on August 27, 2014 1:46 PM

Goldsboro police Chief Jeff Stewart admitted Tuesday night that there are nationally recognized street gangs operating in Goldsboro.

Speaking after a Goldsboro Partners Against Crime call-in, at which 14 violent offenders were cautioned to change their ways or to face harsher sentences, Stewart acknowledged the gangs' presence.

"There are some that affiliate with the Bloods and the Crips," he said.

The Bloods and Crips are two of the country's most widely known street gangs, both originating in California.

In GPAC's first two years, 117 violent offenders have been notified at call-ins like the one held Tuesday.

Community members first plead with the offenders to change for the sake of their families, then law enforcement warns what will happen if they do not -- federal prison.

Stewart said he believes GPAC is working to cut down on violent crime in the city, citing the fact that only 13 of the 103 offenders notified prior to Tuesday had re-offended.

"The ones that have violated now are fast-tracked, awaiting trial. That means they aren't out there anymore committing violent crimes," Stewart said.

Yet with more than 30 people having been shot in the city since the first of the year, and the number of shots fired calls up to more than 300, the officers on the street have been kept busy.

"We know there are gang activities in Goldsboro. We're monitoring the situation," Stewart said.

He said he has been reluctant in the past to speak openly about the gang situation because he did not want to lend criminals any credibility.

"We're out there, in the housing communities, keeping an eye on things. We make arrests when we can," Stewart said.

One obstacle law enforcement faces in tackling the gang problem is identifying the players.

"Who is a gang member?" Stewart asked. "Is it two guys hanging out, or is it the guy wearing a certain hat and wearing one color or another, you tell me," he said.

Legally, a gang is defined as three or more people engaged in illegal activity, but Stewart conceded that is a very broad definition.

"They have to be validated, and even then, how do you prosecute them," he said. "It is not against the law to be a gang member."

GPAC coordinator and Violent Crimes Task Force member Capt. Theresa Chiero said the process of validating suspected gang members is just that, a process.

"There are 10 possible criteria, and they have to meet at least three," she said.

She said the state Department of Probation and Parole is responsible for completing the process, and that it follows federal guidelines in doing so.

"To be honest, I don't know what those are but I am going to research them," she said.