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2 cops see 'gang influence' in Hagerstown

September 09, 1998|By MARLO BARNHART

There is no hard evidence that well-organized gangs are operating in Hagerstown, but there are gang members living here, according to two police officers.

"We were told there had been some recruitment in this area from the Pittsburgh gangs around December 1997," said Officer H.E. Feigley, who has studied the gang phenomenon.

Feigley said he believes some members of the Crips and Bloods gangs are in town but are loosely organized compared with similar gangs on the West Coast and in New York.

Last week, Terrell Earl Jones, a defendant in a drug-related murder case, flashed what appeared to be a gang sign for unity as he was being taken back to prison after a Washington County Circuit Court date.

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Feigley said the symbol - thumbs and forefingers forming a circle with remaining fingers jutting down and at an angle - is illustrated in "Street Gang Awareness," a resource guide written by a former juvenile probation officer in Illinois.

It's not always easy to tell if a person is in a gang, was in a gang or is trying to be cool by using gang symbols or wearing gang colors, Feigley said.

He said it was not known whether Jones was a gang member.

"If you believe the intelligence reports we are getting, there are some people here who have gang affiliations from their home areas," said Hagerstown City Police Sgt. Charlie Summers, former director of the Washington County Narcotics Task Force.

Summers said tattoos worn by some people have checked out as gang-related.

"We have people here from certain locations - New York, Baltimore, Florida and D.C. - and they hang together," Summers said. "Are they gangs? ... I don't know."

Feigley said there are definite gang influences at the three state prisons south of Hagerstown.

"Those guys like it in this area, too, and they tend to stay around here and live with the same values when they are released," Feigley said.

Authorities have said that much of Hagerstown's crime problem involves people from other areas.

"Just about all of our problems hail from New York and Florida now," Feigley said.

Feigley said he and other officers spend time trying to equip youngsters with the tools to help them avoid getting into gangs.

It's a difficult task because the desire to belong, to be cared about and to be recognized is strong in all of us, said Feigley, a teacher in the DARE program.

DARE, a school-based program, stands for Drug Abuse Resistance Education.

Gangs transcend all income levels, races and creeds, he said.

"Often they are called crews or cliques but they are still gangs, such as taggers," Feigley said.

Taggers are responsible for graffiti, much of which involves gang symbols.

Those symbols often mark territory, according to police.

In March, Feigley went to a special school to learn about gangs and gang activities. This enables him to spot things that others might not realize are gang-related.

"Parents need to talk to their children, see what they are wearing and pay attention to who they are spending time with," Feigley said.

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