A student at Wade Hampton High School was questioned by school officials last week for wearing a popular brand shirt to school because it also represented gang bandanna colors. ABC news reports that his mother Kristi Davis said her son did not know and neither did she. Davis bought the shirt from American Eagle and wants the school board to better educate parents.
Master Deputy D.A. Woodall is the gang investigator for the Greenville County Sheriff’s Office and the Greenville County School District, which includes 22 middle schools and 19 high schools
He says that more than ever, pop culture capitalizes on the symbols, “In the mainstream, from music to sports to clothing, you are going to have that influence, even on clothing lines.”
Gangs get busier in recruiting when school is back in session, Woodall says.
“There are areas where gangs are not supposed to cause problems, schools being one of them. Many of the big gangs that we have here are not supposed to get into anything on school property or school grounds which are considered neutral,” Woodall says. “I wish I could say that they abide by those rules, but they do not.”
Woodall urges parents and teachers to go the the FBI’s National Gang Intelligence Center (NGIC) website.
The NGIC says its reporting indicates that juvenile gangs are responsible for a majority of crime in various jurisdictions South Carolina and that there are two to four gang members for every thousand people in the state.
Across the state, there are dozens of smaller gangs and spin-offs of better known groups, so Woodall says it is difficult to warn citizens about a particular threat:
“What we refer to as your non-traditional or hybrid gangs, a lot of times those are the guys who refer to themselves by their street name, the area they live in, their zip code, their area code or their voting district. As far as the danger goes, a lot of them crave more respect. Some of them are not national gangs like the “Bloods, “Crips” or the “Gangster Disciples” and they crave more respect in their crimes
Woodall says they are now dealing with generations being born into the same gang:
“Moms and Dads, Grandpas, Grandmas and grandkids. Some major gangs were started by juveniles,” Woodall says. “And for every gang member you seem to have at least two siblings, most of the time younger. So if you say we have a thousand gang members, you have to think about the siblings, who are likely to follow in their footsteps.”
Woodall says it is extremely important for parents to question their children about what they see at school.
“A lot of gangs have crossed economic and racial lines, so if you live in a side of town that generally does not have a lot of crime, a more “up” side of town, don’t think that gangs can’t come into your area.”