According to a Recent Survey, Gang Violence In The South On the Rise, But What About for Region 8?

JULY 3, 2006 -- POSTED AT 8:30 P.M. CDT

JONESBORO, AR -- New research shows gang violence in the south is on the rise. The Jonesboro Police Department spoke with us about local gangs, but first we asked what really classifies a group as a gang?

"Three or more people can be classified as a gang if they're doing some kind of criminal activity or criminal enterprise," says Jonesboro Police Officer Greg Lawson.

And how does law enforcement decide what criminals are involved in a gang?

"Sometimes it's hard to tell whether they are or are not gang members. One of things you look for is of course tattoos because if they are they're going to wearing some kind of tattoo that indicates who they belong to," says Lawson.

The 2005 National Gang Threat Assessment by the National Alliance of Gang Investigators' Association says that 50 percent of southern agencies that were surveyed reported an increase in the presence of gangs over the past 5 years, but how true is that statistic for this area?

"We haven't had that much of a problem, but we are getting people move in here from L.A. and different places that have been associated with gangs before and they know how to organize and that's where we may end up with problems," says Lawson.

Officer Lawson mentioned 2 particular gangs that they currently see some activity from.

"We started having a little bit of trouble from the Southside 13 and the Gangster Disciples. I know for a fact that one of the local schools has had some problems with the two, as far as fights and stuff like that," says Lawson.

So, just how big are these local gangs?

"I was told by one of the Southside guys that there are about 70 members here in Jonesboro, but as far as the other one, Gangster Disciples, I'm not sure how many members they have," says Lawson.

Officer Lawson did add that most of the crime in this area is not gang related, but it still exists and for that reason, he says their officers will continue to fight against gangs.

We also tried to contact other police department in Region 8. The Forrest City Police Department in St. Francis County told us that they have not seen an increase in gang violence since the late 90's.