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Police Target Hand Signals In Fight Against Gang Violence

June 3, 1994

FORT WORTH, Texas (AP) _ Gang members using hand signals to start a disturbance can get more than a slap on the wrist under a new city law.

Officers may ticket offending gang members for disorderly conduct, a misdemeanor punishable by a $500 fine.

Officers may issue tickets only if they can describe the signs, understand what they mean and show ″how the resulting disturbance was directly related to the throwing of the sign,″ a police memo says.

The new interpretation of the city’s disorderly conduct law was sent to officers May 4. It follows a proposal to hire gang members as street counselors.

Police say gang members often use hand signals to identify themselves, or to challenge or insult rivals. The signals are generally a single gesture on one or both hands, said Sgt. Oscar Ramirez, intelligence chief for the police department gang unit.

The policy is ″at least another tool to try,″ said Lt. Ed Daniels, head of the police department’s gang unit.

″I think what we’re looking for is something where an officer sees something beginning and can breach it before it escalates,″ he said.

Others are skeptical.

One officer, who asked not to be identified, told the Fort Worth Star- Telegram the law will be almost impossible to enforce.

Police records show 10 people have died in gang-related violence this year in the city of about 450,000 residents. In 1993, 17 people died in gang- related crimes.

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