Report analyzes gang presence in Ector County
An annual report of data showing gang-related activity released by the Texas Department of Public Safety shows the presence of gangs throughout the state, with Ector County seeing a documented presence of members of the Aryan Brotherhood of Texas and the Aryan Circle.
The Texas Gang Threat Assessment stated Ector, Midland and Tom Green Counties have a significant presence of members from the groups. Other significant gangs found to be active in the region include the Latin Kings, Barrio Azteca, Bloods, Crips, Gangster Disciples, Sureños, Chuco Tangos and West Texas Tangos, with the majority of reported gang activity occurring in El Paso and Midland Counties.
Ector County District Attorney Bobby Bland said gang-related crime has always been something his office has had to deal with.
“They’re certainly related to a number of cases out here,” Bland said. “It’s always been a real problem.”
Sometimes, Bland said, it is related to smaller gangs, or local groups of people who call themselves a gang, and sometimes they are tied into larger statewide organizations, such as the Aryan Brotherhood or the West Texas Tangos.
Ector County is shown in the report as having a median level of gang activity, with the greatest concentrations of activity occurring in more populous areas, such as Houston or Dallas-Fort Worth.
While Sheriff Mike Griffis said his office is aware there are some gangs in the region, he said they don’t see a whole lot of people planning to be in gangs. Many of the individuals in the area are part of the Aryan Circle or the Aryan Brotherhood, and they sometimes run into members from MS-13, Barrio Azteca or the Texas Mexican Mafia, as well.
“We don’t have a gang problem like they do in some places, but they’re definitely here,” Griffis said. “Most of them, it’s drugs and crimes that fuel the drug use.”
The Ector County Sheriff’s Office, along with the Midland and Odessa Police Department, were involved in an 18-month investigation with DPS in 2017 addressing high auto theft rates in the Midland and Odessa region, the report stated. Gang members reportedly collaborated to steal vehicles to further their criminal activities, altering and reselling them or using them to commit other crimes such as drug and weapons trafficking, robberies, prostitution, burglary, as well as mail and identify theft and credit card fraud.
Upon concluding the investigation, special agents had filed 147 charges resulting in 21 indictments, 93 arrests and 20 convictions on individuals involved in the organization, the report detailed. A total of 115 seizures were made, including 34 drug seizures valued at $58,644, 26 firearm seizures valued at $17,548, 55 stolen vehicle recoveries valued at $719,817 and six stolen property seizures.
“Whether any of these individuals are tied to the cartels, I can’t tell you,” Griffis said. “Methamphetamine is bad everywhere. Those cartels are out to make money and they’re traveling every avenue to try to make that happen.”
At the jail, Griffis said they sometimes have to keep certain individuals segregated due to their allegiance to certain gangs, otherwise it can cause fighting.
Griffis added that his office would be sending some of their officers to a gang school in the near future to help them better identify individuals involved in gangs.
“A lot of them are only identified due to their tattoos and markings on their body,” Griffis said. “You can identify them by merely seeing their tattoos.”