United against gangs

Published 8:28 pm Thursday, January 29, 2009

A table loaded with weapons and ammunition. Leather jackets emblazoned with swastikas and mottos. A shadow box with mementoes of a fallen brother. They all helped provide evidence of an organized biker gang, the Renegade Outlaws, three of whose members police have accused of participating in a mob assault in Suffolk last month.

The search warrants and arrests Wednesday morning provided a graphic backdrop to a meeting the night before at King’s Fork Middle School, where hundreds of city residents learned that as many as 20 different gangs operate in the city today.

Those attending saw a disturbing video about gangs and the damage they do to individuals, families and communities. Virginia Attorney General Bob McDonnell produced the video, “The Wrong Family: Virginia Fights Back Against Gangs” to help the state’s residents understand the high costs of gang activity, both in dollars and in lives.

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Wednesday’s event was hosted by Suffolk Commonwealth’s Attorney C. Phillips “Phil” Ferguson, who has reason to know a thing or two about the damage that gangs can do to a community. Ferguson’s office has been involved in some relatively high-profile gang prosecutions in recent years, and it’s a growing trend that neither prosecutors nor police can be comfortable with.

It’s heartening, though, that Wednesday’s forum attracted so many concerned citizens, as neither police nor prosecutors will be able to defeat the gangs that are trying to take over parts of the city without citizens getting involved and taking a stand.

Look for the warning signs, and call police when you see them. Keep your own kids from getting involved, and speak up when you see your neighbor’s kids falling into the wrong crowd. Suffolk residents must stand united against this threat.