The new gang threat: Hybrid Gangs

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Forget the typical gang colors and gang graffiti. The Franklin County Sheriff’s Office says traditional gangs are now becoming hybrid gangs.

“So it's really not the Bloods and Crips no more,” says Deputy Tyler McDowell who works Community Relations in the sheriff’s office.

“They make up different rules and if someone doesn't want to be part of a gang, they switch over and create their new hybrid gang,” he adds.

Deputy McDowell says he started seeing hybrid gangs in recent years and knows of five currently operating in Franklin County. But tracking the exact number and territory is difficult.

“It’s these hybrid gangs that really do not use identifying signs, symbols or colors,” he explains. “They do use a little bit of hand signals but not much.”

A Saturday workshop for Adult Gang Education has already filled up. Most parents who attend are surprised to learn of gang activity in their neighborhoods. But Deputy McDowell says anywhere there are drugs, there are gangs since they are motivated by money. It’s part of a 3-hour presentation McDowell has put together to illustrate how gangs operate and how they recruit.

“Social media,” says Deputy McDowell. “They push a lot through Facebook as well as YouTube, getting out music videos that they produce.”

McDowell showed CrimeTracker 10’s Angela An some of the high-quality music videos now circulation in Franklin County. Any unsuspecting parent might think it’s rap music. But law enforcement says these videos are used as recruiting tools.

“They do a roll call, shout outs to other members of that gang,” McDowell explains. “Who is a part of the gang, what their purpose is, they use a lot of slang language.”

McDowell says recruiting can start as young as kids in elementary school, with gang graffiti often found at playgrounds. He says gangs often use young kids to help peddle their drugs since children would not typically show up on law enforcement radar.

Another gang workshop is planned for December.

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