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About 70 attend meeting to learn about gangs

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By Jesef Williams

HEATHSPRINGS–WendyReinmanwasn’tcertainifLancasterCountyhasagangproblem.ButafterhearingalectureTuesdayaboutlocalgraffitiandotherparaphernalia,shewasassuredoftheirpresenceinthecounty.ReinmanleftthepresentationatHeathSpringsElementarySchoolwithawealthofknowledgeaboutgangsinthearea.Whatsheandotherresidentsonceperceivedasmeredrawingsmayhaveadifferentmeaningtothemnow.Shenowknowsthattherearespecificreasonswhygangmemberswearcertainclothing.FredThompson,theganginvestigatorfortheLancasterCountySheriff’sOffice,broughtaplethoraoflocalganginformationtolightduringthespecialseminar.Thompsonsaidthereareatleast21gangsinLancasterCounty.Someofthemarewidelyknown–suchasPeopleNation,CripsandBloods–whilemanyarehybrid,orlocal,gangswithnobroaderties.HesaidatleastthreegangshavebeenidentifiedintheHeathSpringsandKershawareas.Thompsonledagroupofabout70concernedresidentsthroughaslideshowpresentationthatincludedpicturesofLancasterCountyresidentswhoaremembersofgangsandshotsofwallsandbuildingswhereganggraffitihasbeenfound.OneofThompson’sgoalsistoletpeopleknowwhattolookforsotheycantelliftheirchildorsomeoneelsemightbeinvolvedwithagang.Agangexistsiftherearethreeormorepeoplewhoassembletocommitaseriesofcrimes,Thompsonsaid.Thegroupsdon’thavetohavehandsignals,particularcolorsorpracticestobeconsideredagang,hesaid.Butjustbecauseapersonwearsclothingsometimesassociatedwiththegangsterlifestyle,thatdoesn’tnecessarilymeanheorsheisinagang,Thompsonsaid.“Don’tgetwrappedupintheclothingallthetime,”hesaid.Thompsonpassedarounda“bookofknowledge”hehascompiledthatincludesgang-relateddrawingsandpersonalletterswrittenbylocalgangmembers.AfterflippingthroughthebookandhearingThompson’slecture,Reinmansaidshedidn’trealizehowstrongthegangpresenceisinthecounty.“Ididn’tknowanyofthisstuff,”saidReinman,wholivesinKershaw.“Ijustwanttoknowwhattobeawareofandwhat’soutthere.”PleasantHillresidentMikeCouchsaidtheseminarraisedhisawarenessaboutgangsinthearea.LikeReinman,Couchsaidhewillnowpaymoreattentiontohandsignalsandclothingheseespeoplewearing.Couchsaidheattendedtheseminartogainknowledgetopassontohisgrandchildrentohelpensuretheirsafety.“Thesethingsarerightherewithus,”Couchsaid.“It’sourjobtobeawareandadvisetheyoungergenerationwhat’sgoingon.”

ContactJesefWilliamsat283-1152orjwilliams@thelancasternews.com