Gang Activity Subject of Meeting

SNOW HILL- With increased gang activity making its presence felt in across the state including the Eastern Shore, Worcester County State’s Attorney Joel Todd last week held a formal meeting with various local law enforcement agencies to discuss the proliferation of the criminal elements and improve awareness.

Todd hosted the meeting at the County Courthouse in Snow Hill last Wednesday, inviting local law enforcement groups to weigh on what they are seeing and hearing about the proliferation of gang activity in their communities. While gang activity has not been clearly identified, for the most part, in Worcester’s communities, there is evidence of an increased presence in neighboring areas and local officials are attempting to be proactive on the issue.

The meeting included presentations from various individuals and groups on the front lines of the growing battle with organized criminal elements. For example, Dr. Mark Bowen, director of Gang Intelligence with the Maryland Department of Juvenile Services, addressed the group stating the mission of their organization was to increase the safety of the citizens of Maryland by empowering youth to reject gangs and substantially reducing gang-related crimes and violence in the state.

In another segment of the meeting, Ocean City Police Corporal Regina Custer, who works at the Eastern Shore Information Center, discussed a validation system designed to connect agencies together for the purpose of identifying and confirming gang membership. Criminal gangs are typically identified by certain unmistakable traits and trends, and Custer’s presentation offered some insight into how allied law enforcement agencies can share information about the dangerous groups.

Custer also identified the benefits of validation as a way to map and track trends of gang activity, identify individuals released into our area after incarceration, and to aid in the prosecution of gang members. Gang members are often in and out of the criminal justice system, and local law enforcement agencies can track their activities and their whereabouts by sharing information.

Of course, those most vulnerable in the community are often courted by gangs to expand their memberships and the presentation included a segment on where and how many young individuals end up with the criminal groups. Both Custer and Bowen descried how schools can become prime targets for groups of students that start their own gangs.

The meeting on gangs last week was attended by most county law enforcement agencies and corrections agencies as well as the Department of Parole and Probation.