Gang experts say children as young as 8 being recruited in Washington County

Grafitti, and identifying characteristics of local gangs discussed

Grafitti, and identifying characteristics of local gangs discussed

September 25, 2008|By HEATHER KEELS

HAGERSTOWN -- As gang membership grows younger and younger, parents should be on the lookout for gang sign doodles and suspicious clothing choices to protect their children from slipping into a deadly lifestyle, local gang prevention experts said Wednesday at a community seminar at Fairgrounds Park.

"We've had some recruitment at Bester Elementary of 8-year-olds," said John M. Kroschinsky Sr., a case management specialist and gang expert at Maryland Correctional Training Center.

Older gang members recruit younger children to commit crimes due to the lesser penalties for juveniles, according to a Washington County Gang Prevention Task Force brochure distributed at the meeting. The national average for the age of a street gang "shooter," or gun-carrying member, is between 9 and 11 years old, according to the task force.

Hagerstown City Councilwoman and Neighborhoods First member Penny M. Nigh organized Wednesday night's seminar to raise community awareness of gang activity in Hagerstown. At the meeting, community members passed around snapshots of local gang-related graffiti, and correctional officers discussed the identifying characteristics of prominent local gangs.


In Hagerstown, the most prominent gangs are the Bloods and Crips, but other, more localized groups have also appeared, such as the Noland Village Crew and the West End Boys, said Sgt. William Nutter of the Washington County Detention Center. In Maryland prisons, the top gangs are the Bloods and Dead Man Inc., a predominantly white gang that has recruited vigorously in local prisons in recent years, said Deputy 1st Class Steve Greathead of the Washington County Detention Center.

Task force members have partnered with local housing authorities to keep known gang members from settling in public housing in Hagerstown after being released from prison, but gang activity is continuing to spread across the county, Kroschinsky said.

Signs of possible gang involvement

o Sudden poor school grades

o Withdrawal from family activities

o Use of unknown vocabulary

o Sudden change in friends

o Evidence of drug use

o Sudden affluence

o Use of hand signs

o Desire for excessive privacy

o New nickname

o Bad attitude development

o Purchase or desire to buy clothing of all one color

o Wearing altered headwear

o Changing appearance (cuts in eyebrows, tattoos, haircuts)

o Use of gang graffiti on folders, school books, desks or walls

o Paint on clothing and hands

Source: Washington County Gang Prevention Task Force

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