April 4, 2008
By TORAINE NORRIS
Hispanic gangs are becoming a growing problem in the Birmingham area, even as authorities continue to grapple with traditional street and neighborhood gangs, law enforcement officials said at a forum Thursday night.
Members of the FBI Gang Task Force, speaking at a Gang Awareness Forum at Norwood Clinic said at least four Hispanic gangs are operating in the Birmingham metro area, including in Hoover, Homewood, Pelham and Alabaster.
One gang has been identified as SUR 13, or South 13.
Many have formed as a means of protection against more established local gangs such as Bloods, police said.
"We have a growing number of Hispanic peoples and with that, we have a growing problem with their gangs being here," said Birmingham Gang Resistance Education and Training officer Victor Langford.
Hispanic gang graffiti was recently spotted on the stadium at Woodlawn High School, Langford said.
Police said local street and neighborhood gangs are beginning to recruit members as young as 8. FBI Gang Task Force members said they are monitoring elementary, middle and high schools for gang activity.
Birmingham GREAT officer Roderick Shelby said gangs are operating in schools, suburbs and rural areas. Shelby said the gangs are taking their names for the neighborhoods, streets and even recreation centers.
The gangs can have as few as two members, police said. All are involved in some type of criminal activity. Female gang members are some of the most notorious, police said.
Authorities said it is important to begin informing the community, especially parents, of gang activities and their strategies.
"It's great that the Birmingham Police Department is acknowledging the fact that we have a gang problem," said Meta Eatman, state probation and parole community resource officer. "In previous administrations, that was not the case."
Many youths are being attracted to the local gangs because of the need for family, she said. Authorities told parents to watch for signs of gang activity among their children, such as wearing mostly but red or blue T-shirts under their school uniforms.
Source: The Birmingham News