CAPE GIRARDEAU, MO (KFVS) - Authorities say they are seeing more of a gang presence in southeast Missouri, and what's more they're recruiting kids as young as seven years old.
"We're definitely seeing more," said A.C. Walker with the Cape Girardeau Police Department. "They call themselves things like Cape Kings, Goons, and the 1017 Brick Squad."
Police say they've pulled multiple pictures from Facebook after questioning local teens.
People who live and work in the neighborhoods where police say they see the greatest activity tell Heartland News they aren't surprised.
"I'm 40 years old and I've been here forever and it doesn't surprise me," said Pat Buck.
That's why Walker now works with law enforcement from around Southeast Missouri to monitor drug and gang activity. They call themselves Gangs & Ribs. They share information to fight the problem of gangs.
She says areas like Hanover and Bloomfield are no stranger to fights and potential gang activity.
"We've had a lot of what kids will start off as a club and then it turns into a gang. Signs are numbers, like 573," said Walker. "Of course that's our area code. They might also use an address, like 1017."
Walker says they're modifications of big city gangs. Walker says in Missouri a gang is considered three or more people with criminal intent.
"It could be graffiti and property damage or assault or shop lifting or murder," said Walker.
When kids from the area are picked up by authorities for an offense, gang associations are often revealed.
"We've seen gang tattoos on kids as young as twelve," said Walker. "Creative clothing and now rosaries are also symbols," said Walker.
"They're recruiting seven and eight year olds to do their dirty work," said Walker. "They're juvenile so the laws are different and it may not stay on their record."
As for Pat Buck, he owns a local convenience store at Hanover and Bloomfield. He says they try and discourage loitering to keep away violence. In spite of the problems, he still considers the neighborhood to be a good one.
"If you have problems with the kids in the neighborhood it's not just the kids," said Buck. It's the landlords that rent to just anybody and everything else," said Buck.
Police say repeated behaviors are the key to spotting gang activity. "It could be colors, symbols, a certain word, an unusual tattoo or numbers," said Walker.
According to knowgangs.com as gang is defined as...
- three or more people,
- who share a unique name or have identifiable marks or symbols, (such as tattoos, wearing certain styles of clothing, colors, hairstyles, graffiti, etc.)
- associate together on a regular basis and sometimes claim a specific location or territory,
- have an identifiable organization or hierarchy, (although the leader for one type of criminal activity may be different from that of another criminal activity),
- and either individually or collectively engage in antisocial, unlawful or criminal activity in an effort to further the gang's social or economical status.
- A gang crime is...
- an incident in which a crime is committed,
- motivated not merely for personal incentive,
- with participation of two or more members of the gang, (with exceptions),
- and committed for the furtherance of the gang's social or economic status.
Common crimes committed by gangs by knowgangs.com....
- Murder - The intentional killing of a person.
- Manslaughter - The unintentional killing of a person.
- Forcible Rape - Compulsory sexual intercourse by use or threat of physical force.
- Robbery - Theft by use or threat of physical force. (Physical injury to the victim is not necessary.)
- Terrorist Threats & Witness Intimidation - The threat of physical force or death and the present ability to complete the threat.
- Extortion - To obtain property from another with their consent induced by force or fear.
- Aggravated Assault - A physical attack intended to inflict serious bodily harm. (Physical injury to the victim is not necessary.)
- Simple Assault - A physical attack intended to inflict any bodily harm. (Physical injury to the victim is not necessary.)
- Burglary - The unlawful entry of a building in order to commit a crime.
- Larceny or Theft - The unlawful taking of property without use or threat of physical harm.
- Grant Theft Auto - The unlawful taking of a vehicle without use or threat of physical harm.
- Carjacking - The unlawful taking of a vehicle with the use or threat of physical force. (Physical injury to the victim is not necessary.)
- Drug Trafficking or Sales - Possession of a controlled substance with intent to sell.
- Drug Possession - Possession of a controlled substance without intent to sell.
- Vandalism - The intentional destruction of another's property.
- Arson - The intentional destruction of another's property by fire or burning.
- Public Disorder - A variety of offenses such as disorderly conduct, public intoxication or loitering.
Find out more about gangs at...