A nationwide sting targeting gang members turned out more arrests here in the Carolinas than almost anywhere else. Only Los Angeles and San Juan, Puerto Rico had more. It was part of a five week operation called “Project Shadowfire” ending March 21st.
Now, community leaders are turning their focus to ending gang violence in our area. Perhaps the biggest misconception is that gang activity doesn’t happen here.
“It couldn’t really happen here. It couldn’t really happen in our Upstate. It couldn’t really happen in our Mauldin,” said Mauldin Police Chief, Bryan Turner, explaining what he often hears.
It could be easy, said Turner, to turn a blind eye to gang activity in the upstate, but dangerous.
“In the time of day in which we live in, you’d be very naïve to think that there was a city that didn’t have any activity going on,” he said.
It was evident with the death of Greenville Police Officer Allen Jacobs nearly two weeks ago at the hands of a self described gang member. It was evident last year in Greenville County where three gang prone neighborhoods saw more than 13-hundred crimes, according to the latest stats. With ‘Project Shadowfire,’ it is increasingly evident in the Carolinas with arrests of nearly 70 gang members.
“We’re so close to some of these big cities. The Charlottes and the Atlantas. We’re just a short drive from the beach and we’re not too far from some of these states where some of this activity is already going on,” explained Turner.
So how can we end it?
Turner said they saw their gang issue shrink when neighbors paid attention to warning signs and called them out.
“Those were the people that were actually calling us saying “hey, this is out of the norm,” said Turner.
It’s also important to reach kids when they are young.
“Is it shocking that we’re having to go after kids that are 8, 9 10, 11 years old to keep them from getting into a gang,” asked 7 News Reporter, Addie Hampton.
“In one way, yes [it is] shocking. But, also realize that if you look at a lot of the statistical stuff, it’ll show you that the kids that are most susceptible to getting into things,” said Turner.
Knowing this, Greenville Police is trying to curb gang activity through a summer program with 5th and 6th graders. Kids will be introduced to their local cops and establish positive connections. The deadline to register is April 8th.