AP NEWS

North Florence neighborhood informed about gangs

May 7, 2019

FLORENCE, S.C. – The Greater Wilson Heights Neighborhood Watch Association got some “gang intel” Monday evening.

Sergeant Kendrick Spears and Cpl. Andron Brown of the Florence Police Department provided more information on gang activity in the city to the neighborhood watch group.

“We were invited here today to give you some gang intel within the community that you live in,” said Spears, who works in the city’s special investigations unit. “One of the things that we do is we investigate all kinds of gang-related incidents.”

Spears said gangs could bring other crimes to the community, including the selling of illegal drugs, prostitution and graffiti. He added that the police are trying to identify the gang members and what gang that they’re affiliated with or a member of as well as their location.

“Also, we’re seeing a lot of prostitution,” Brown said. “They’re getting into the prostitution. They’re going out to [U.S.] 52. Any place that has a lot of hotels congregated together, they’re doing prostititution, because they [the gang members] know it’s really hard for us to do anything about it.”

The police might be able to catch a female, and if she cooperates, they can go after their pimps. If the female doesn’t cooperate, a case against the gang member is much harder.

Among the tip-offs are the wearing of certain colors and the 20-second handshakes.

However, neither of these are necessarily indicative of gang membership, Brown later cautioned. Some kids see their favorite basketball player performing a certain handshake and decide to imitate them, Spears added.

“A lot of these gang members, they have certain places where they do all their illegal activity,” Spears said.

Spears said the key is intelligence to know where and who, that way when things “go down,” the police have an idea of who was involved and a place to start their investigations.

“A lot of things we can’t do without help from the citizens,” Spears said. “If you see something going on, as far as spray painting — tagging — these houses, road signs, any of that, if you see that and it wasn’t there before, you need to give us a call about it.”

Brown added that the gangs in Florence are not as organized or as rigid as the gangs in cities such as Los Angeles or Chicago. Cousins who decided to join rival gangs, like the Bloods or the Crips, may hang out together in Florence, but in larger cities the cousins would not have anything to do with each other. This makes determining who is in what gang more difficult for police officers.

Brown said there were five to six gangs that are the sources of major illegal activity.

“There are more gangs than that,” Brown said. “I don’t want you to think there are only five gangs in Florence.”

Those groups include the Bloods, who operate in North Florence.

“There were Red Scorpion Bloods who operated right here on Wilson Road,” Brown said.

The meeting was held at the House of God Keith Dominion Church on the corner of Wilson Road and Irby Street.

“We haven’t seen much of the Red Scorpions anymore,” Brown said. “Those people don’t live on this road anymore.”

He added that the police were not currently investigating a gang on Wilson Road.

Other active groups include MPR — money, power, respect — and Quad in North Florence, Y.B., YTN and BYTN in East Florence. No location for Y.B. was specified in the meeting.

Other groups might claim to be a music group to keep out of the watchful eyes of the police. Some members might have legitimate musical talent and ambitions, but others in the group are dealing drugs or serving as an enforcer or to connect the group to a gang.

Brown said no part of the city was immune to gang activity.

“They’re comfortable wherever,” Brown said. “So I wouldn’t limit it to one area. We all need to be vigilant.”

The gangs recruit from local schools where kids around 13-17 years old feel the need to belong to a group, any group, Brown added.

The city police have four officers, including Brown, investigating gang complaints within the city.

Wilson Heights is one of around 30 neighborhoods to have organized a neighborhood crime watch since the program began. Neighborhood Watch participants’ duties include arranging for a home security survey, practicing operation identification, exchanging identification with neighbors, reporting all crimes and suspicious activity to the police and participating in passive patrol in your neighborhood.

The primary organizational goal of the neighborhood watch concept is for the police department to work cooperatively with individual citizens, groups of citizens and both public and private organizations to identify and resolve issues that potentially affect the livability of specific neighborhoods, business areas or the city as a whole.

Wilson Heights is a neighborhood located in North Florence.