Gang investigators meet, discuss strategy

October 11, 2011 5:37:51 PM PDT
Gang investigators from all over the state converged in San Mateo Tuesday to share information on how best to fight the growing gang problem. Approximately 300 cops who specialize in fighting gangs met at the Marriot Hotel to discuss strategy.

Detective Jamie Draper led a seminar on the latest gang investigation techniques. He is a seasoned member of the San Mateo County Gang Task Force.

District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe says gang cases are difficult to try in court.

"Our gang cases have the most documentation, more than our murders in terms of paperwork because you have to go through all their prior conduct of the people they've been involved with to show this really is a gang, and not simply as one judge said one time, 'How do I know it's just not like a college fraternity and they all wear red?" says Wagstaffe.

Ethnic gangs such as the Nortenos and Surrenos are growing in numbers. The Nortenos' colors are red; Surrenos wear blue.

"In the Norteno area, were seeing around 1,400 -- they're not documented, all of them, but that would be our estimate," says Sgt. Doug Davis with the San Mateo County Gang Task Force." And the Surrenos slightly less, around 600 to 700."

Davis says gangs are now recruiting kids in elementary school.

"They may not necessarily be a member of a gang, but we're seeing children in clothing that are gang apparel and are learning how to show gang signs even at that young age," says Davis.

Gang investigators say members are becoming more sophisticated. As society adapts to the Internet, so do the gangs.

"You're seeing a lot more of the gangs that are operating in cyberspace, you're seeing a lot of the gangs that are using a lot of the social networking systems," says Inspector Len Broberg with the San Francisco Police Gang Task Force. "You see some of the gangs that are using Craigslist to commit some of their robberies."

Broberg and others at the conference say that gangs are not only becoming more sophisticated, but they're becoming more violent and brazen. The reason being that there is easier access to guns, the stakes are higher now with more money involved, and more drug activity ? a volatile combination for gangs.

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