4-1-1 on gangs

Published 9:45 pm Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Gangs: Prosecutor Bob Sandwich, right, and the Suffolk Police Department’s Neighborhood Enforcement Team visited King’s Fork High School on Tuesday to talk about the importance of shunning gang activity.

Prosecutor, police educate King’s Fork High classes on gang crimes

A prosecutor and police officers visited King’s Fork High School Tuesday to arm students with information on why and how to avoid getting mixed up in gangs.

In his presentation, prosecutor Bob Sandwich focused mainly on the attorney’s side of gang activity, discussing the possible consequences that come with gang crime.

He said there are three places a person can end up when he or she gets involved with gangs: a prison, a hospital or a cemetery.

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“There’s no 80-year-old gangsters walking around,” Sandwich said.

The legal system takes gang crime so seriously, he said, that more jail time can be added to a sentence if a crime is gang-related.

Being part of a gang-related crime can result in being tried as an adult, which can lead to a heftier sentence, Sandwich said.

Also, he said, all people who are aware of gang-related crimes can be held accountable for the consequences.

For example, if a person drives another person to a store with the knowledge the other person is going to rob the store at gunpoint, the driver also can be charged with the robbery.

Commonwealth’s Attorney C. Phillips “Phil” Ferguson has made gangs a No. 1 priority, he said, and many measures have been put in place to combat gang crime.

There are four prosecutors in the commonwealth’s attorney’s office who handle gang cases. The office is doing more community outreach to inform the public about gang activity.

The police department’s Neighborhood Enforcement Teams also are a part of the measures to decrease gangs in Suffolk.

There are two teams, one in North Suffolk and another in downtown Suffolk, that focus on gang activity in the city.

Officer Rob Fahrman, who is part of the North Suffolk team, said the teams wanted to add to prevention of youth gang activity to their focus.

Having talks at Suffolk schools is important because they are one of the main recruiting grounds for gangs, along with prisons, Sandwich said.

“They try to get kids because they know you,” he told students. “They know you may need some money, you might need some help, and they target you.”

He also told the students getting involved with gangs would limit them in a competitive world.

“If you get mixed up in gangs, you are not going to be able to compete,” Sandwich said. “It’s a lot nicer to see you in school than at the defendant’s table.”

Fahrman, Officer Paul Hutta and Officer Taylor Johnson will add another angle to the presentation when they discuss their involvement with gang activity at King’s Fork High School today.

Hutta said they will talk about investigating gang activity through aggressive enforcement in high crime areas in Suffolk.

“College Square is the big area that we focus on for gang activity,” he said.

Students will be shown maps that highlight which gangs are involved in each part of Suffolk. They will also see numerous images displaying everything from gang paraphernalia to the difference between graffiti that will get you a misdemeanor and gang graffiti that means a felony charge.

In order to explain how they go about preventing gang violence, the police officers use the acronym P.E.A.C.E., which stands for partnership, education, activities, community and enforcement.

“We can come together and fight this battle,” Hutta said.