Local law enforcement using technology to battle gangs

Graffiti that says "Crip City" in one of Lynchburg's neighborhoods is one of the first signs of gangs, according to law enforcement (Photo: WSET)

LYNCHBURG, Va. (WSET) -- If you don't think gangs are active in the heart of Virginia, the FBI says you're wrong.

You know about the Lynchburg teenager who was brutally murdered by suspected gang members, but local law enforcement says that's just the tip of the iceberg.

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Maps from Lynchburg Police show crime hot spots in the city and the crimes they include.

One spot was in the neighborhood of Greenfield Drive as well as Diamond Hill and other areas near downtown.

"People getting shot coming out the door, getting beat up, not caring about their apartments," said a woman, who wished to remain anonymous.

According to Lynchburg Police, the area around Greenfield Drive saw six gang involved crimes in 2016.

While across town toward Diamond Hill, more of the same.

"I've had tenants say they've seen drugs hidden in bushes," said property owner, David Mills. "They've asked me to cut the bushes back so people don't do it,."

Just across the street from his building was graffiti that said "Crip City," one of the first signs of gangs, according to law enforcement.

Right now, the digital maps that show all these crimes are helping LPD pinpoint the hot spots of the crimes.

"It helps a great deal. It gives us the ability to see things we weren't able to see before," LPD Detective Kenny Gavin said.

Prior to this, officers had to look up addresses and pinpoint them on a paper map.

Needless to say, this new program speeds up the process.

According to their data, there are about 589 gang members that do business in the city making up more than 40 gangs.

Two of the biggest are the Bloods and Crips.

This technology is allowing LPD to pinpoint where and when crimes might happen.

Detective Gavin says this data allows them to take down "the big players," the leaders of the gangs by stepping up patrols and activity in those areas.

"The neighborhood-based gangs are probably the biggest threat to our communities across the country," FBI Special Agent, Mark Knoll said, who works in the Richmond field office.

He and Special Agen Earl Camp, who oversees our area, say gangs are not just a law enforcement problem, they are a community problem.

The FBI works with local law enforcement to take gangs off the streets.

But, when a community decides it's time to end gang dominance on the streets, telling authorities can help put them away.

"Wherever that is occurring, we find a lower incidence of gang activity, maybe it doesn't necessarily translate into lower crime, but lower incidents of this group crime mentality," Special Agent Camp said.

Now when you take a look at the maps for 2017, you will see that the area of greenfield drive is no longer a hot spot for gang activity.

Lawmakers are taking action at the federal level.

Congressman Bob Goodlatte said Congress is discussing bills such as the Davis-Oliver Act.

It would make being a gang member a deportable offense for illegal immigrants.

To prevent further rise in gangs, Rep. Goodlatte says people should help get children in activities that will serve as an alternative to gang life.

"Getting them out of those gangs, giving them other things to do. Breaking up the gangs, prosecuting them for crimes and deporting the members who are not in this country lawfully would all go a long way in helping to solve this problem," Goodlatte said.

Right now the bill is in the House Judiciary; Foreign Affairs; Homeland Security committees.

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