|Saturday, 18 October 2008|
| By KRISTA HAYES |
Gang-related activity in the U.S. military is increasing an Auglaize County Sheriff’s deputy says, and it is posing a threat to law enforcement officials and national security.
“Members of nearly every major street gang have been identified on both domestic and international installations, including the Bloods, Crips, Black Disciples, Gangster Disciples, Hell’s Angels, Latin Kings and the Mexican Mafia,” Samuel Blank, a certified Gang Resistance, Education and Training (GREAT) officer, said. “Although gang activity is most prevalent in the Army, the Army Reserves and the National Guard, gang activity is also found throughout all branches of the military and its ranks, but is most common among the junior enlisted ranks.” According to a 2007 assessment by the National Gang Intelligence Center, the extent of gang presence in the armed services is often difficult to determine since many enlisted gang members conceal their gang affiliation and military authorities may not recognize the affiliation or may be inclined not to report such incidences. Due to this, the military enlistment of gang members could ultimately lead to a worldwide expansion of U.S.-based gangs.
The U.S. Army Criminal Investigative Division reported a modest increase in gang-related activity in the Army during the past several years. Of the 10,309 criminal inci-
dents they investigated in 2006, 16 were for gang-related offenses, an increase from four in 2003.
“There is only a small sub-group composed of gang members enlisting in the U.S. military today who are actually abusing their military training,” Blank said. “More than 95 percent of the military’s recruiters are joining the armed forces for the right reasons, to act in the best interest of their country.
“Overall, we are talking about small numbers here that have the potential to increase if law enforcement and military officers do not continue to grow wiser in understanding the measures that need to be taken to filter gang members out of the military and its branches,” he said.
There are a number of reasons why gang members enlist in the military today, Blank said.
“Some join to escape their current environment or gang lifestyle,” Blank said. “Others will enlist to receive weapons, combat and convoy training, to obtain access to weapons and explosives or as an alternative to incarceration. Once they are discharged, they may use their military training against law enforcement officials and rival gang members. This military training could result in more organized, sophisticated and deadly gangs, as well as an increase in deadly assaults on law enforcement officers.”
In 2007, the National Gang Intelligence Center stated that gang membership in the armed forces could disrupt order and discipline, increase criminal activity on and off military installations and compromise installation security and force protection.
Gang incidents involving active-duty personnel on or near U.S. military bases nationwide include drive-by shootings, assaults, robberies, drug distribution, weapons violations, domestic disturbances, vandalism, extortion and money laundering. Gangs have also been known to use active-duty service members to distribute their drugs.
The National Gang Intelligence Center also reported that military-trained gang members present an emerging threat to law enforcement officers patrolling the streets of U.S. cities. Both current and former gang-affiliated soldiers transfer their acquired military training and knowledge back to the community and use them against law enforcement officers, who are typically not trained to engage gangsters with military expertise.
“In bringing what they learn from the military back to the streets, gang members will not only send one of their gangsters with no criminal record into the armed serves to learn how to fight, but to also receive medical training,” Blank said. “In this way, the gangster will know how to self-medicate himself or other members of his gang in the event of a knife fight or a drive-by shooting. It is also important to note that gangs do not have to be from bigger cities such as Chicago, Los Angeles, or New York to be in existence.
“Just because we haven’t had any gang activity here in Auglaize County doesn’t mean that gang members or their sub-groups haven’t traveled through the area,” he said. “However, it’s always hard to tell who is passing through because gang members hide their affiliation with gangs exceptionally well.”
Gang members also have been known to enlist in the military by failing to report past criminal convictions or by using fraudulent documents, according to the National Gang Intelligence Center. In addition, some applicants enter the criminal justice system as juveniles and their criminal records are sealed and unavailable to recruiters performing criminal background investigations. Many military recruiters are not properly trained to recognize gang affiliation and unknowingly recruit gang members, particularly if the applicant has no criminal record or visible tattoos.
“Gang members commonly target dependent children of military personnel for recruitment,” Blank said. “Military children are considered potential candidates for gang membership because the transient nature of their families often makes them feel isolated, vulnerable and in need of companionship,”
With gang members reaching out to youth for recruitment purposes, Blank said he believes it’s important to educate the children of today about resisting the pressure to join a gang and how to avoid violence.
“Earlier this month, I visited the seventh-grade student body at the Wapakoneta Middle School and was asked by some teachers to give a presentation on gang membership and myths,” Blank said. “At the time, the students were reading ‘The Outsiders’ as an assignment for their language arts class. In tying the historical fiction together with gang membership, I educated the students on why youth fall into the peer pressures of joining gangs — to receive a sense of belonging.
“I also discussed how gangs are established, what gangs are popular today (such as the Bloods and the Crips), common gang myths, lifestyles of gang members and gang identifiers including locations, signs, colors and behaviors,” he said. “I think it’s important to educate the youth today about gangs and their activities because they need to know that no matter what the issue is, violence and destruction solves nothing, whether your part of a gang or not.”
| Last Updated ( Saturday, 18 October 2008 ) http://www.wapakdailynews.com/content/view/77127/27/|
for point of reference, this post is from a newspaper in Wapakoneta, OH, pretty far from any major military base, so I suspect this is second or third-hand information . . .
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