Police gang unit representative addresses concerns
Wednesday, 23 May 2012 11:23

Gang activity in St. Helena and Turner’s cited

by Ben Boehl

    Are there gangs in Dundalk and if so, should residents stay inside their houses at all times?
    Sgt. James Conaboy of the Baltimore County Police Gang Enforcement Team answers yes and no. There are gangs in Dundalk and other portions of the county, but these gangs don’t control the neighborhoods.         According to Conaboy and his research, the gang Dead Man Inc. (DMI) can be found in the St. Helena area and members of the BFG (Black Guerrilla Family) gang had been spotted in Turner Station.

“They are not controlling [Turner Station and St. Helena]. They just control the criminal activity,” Conaboy explained. “We don’t have an area like Southern California where regular people are stopped by these gang members before they can enter a community.”
    Some concern is that today’s youth are more involved with gangs. Conaboy said that is untrue and has seen a dramatic decrease in juvenile gang members the past four to five years. He noted that juvenile arrests went down from 502 in 2007 to 39 in 2011.
    According to police studies, Baltimore County has around 50,000 students from 7th to 12th grades. Of those 50,000 kids, about 50 of them are in a gang. He said the numbers don’t lie.
    “I’m not stupid. I know that there are more gang members that we don’t know about, but even if it’s 10 times more— which it’s not — it’s still a very small percentage of the population,” he added.
    Conaboy invited the Norwood Holabird Community Association (NHCA) to North Point Police Precinct 12 for a presentation on gang awareness. NHCA president John Ayres said he was concerned about graffiti found in Berkshire which contained hallmarks of the notorious MS-13 gang.
    “The gang MS-13 has taken over Berkshire and they will take over your neighborhoods if we don’t do something,” Ayres said before Conaboy gave his presentation.
    Conaboy told the NHCA members not to panic, as many of the local gangs are not nationally affiliated and create their gangs without “permission.” He said this is probably the case in Berkshire.
    “There is no way for us to say it was authentic, but in my professional opinion, without looking at it, it probably wasn’t authentic,” he said. “We don’t have a bad MS-13 problem. We are very fortunate. There is a big MS-13 presence in Prince Georges County.”
    According to Conaboy, there are signs to look for in identifying potential gang members. Tattoos, graffiti, gang colors and dress, hand signals and slang terms are some of the major factors police use in identifying gang members.
    For example, just because a person has a tattoo doesn’t make them a gang member, but police look for tattoos with Roman numerals or symbols. Conaboy says the best thing to do is always ask someone about an unusual or specific tattoo.
    As mentioned in the Berkshire case, sometimes graffiti can be a sign of gang activity. Usually, graffiti that is consistent and perfectly drawn has a chance to appear authentic. Conaboy said there are times when two different gangs could write on each other’s graffiti, and that could be a cause for concern.
    “I’m not saying there is going to be a school shooting, but there might be a small altercation within the next few days. It could be something like a fight,” he said.
    When it comes to colors, police look for individuals that always wear the same color. For example, a person that always dresses in blue, wears blue shoes, blue hat, drives a blue car, etc. could be a symbol to police that he or she is part of the Crips.
    County Councilman John Olszewski Sr. [7th District] credits Baltimore County Police and the North Point Precinct for being on top of their game in getting gang members out of Dundalk neighborhoods.
    “The populations [of prisoners] in the Department of Corrections has increased because our gentlemen in law enforcement are doing their jobs by getting some of these criminals off our streets.”