Gang violence is on the rise in Tallahassee. While each community has its own definition of a gang, the Florida Department of Corrections defines it as “a formal or informal ongoing organization, association, or group that has as one of its primary activities the committing of criminal or delinquent acts.”
Because gang violence has become a major issue in Tallahassee, several initiatives have been carried out to decrease the total amount and to combat its causal root.
Months ago, a town hall meeting was held at city hall to discuss both the issues and solutions as it pertains to gang violence in Tallahassee. Tallahassee Mayor John Marks, Leon County Sheriff Larry Campbell, and a host of other concerned community members were in attendance. The overall sentiments of the meeting were that public safety officials must partner with both the government and community groups to construct a strategy that will combat gang violence.
Although local town hall meetings have proven to be very effective, Officer Darion Scott, a patrol officer with the FAMU Police Department, believes that one of the initial steps to decreasing gang violence is to become more educated.
“Students must become cognizant in order to protect themselves because the city is only as good as its citizens,” Scott said. “We must police ourselves and understand the perception. The perception is that people associate you with what you wear and how you act.”
In an area where it is expected for the college population to be focused on careers and job opportunities, some students have chosen a different path solely based on the geographic location of Tallahassee.
“We have a very unique environment in Tallahassee because of the three universities. Students come from all over the country to pursue an education, however, some don’t leave their gang activity behind,” said Leslie Rabon, a criminal intelligence agent at the Leon County Sheriffs Department. “Because of the many students, gang representation comes from all over and makes its way unto the college campuses.”
Jeff Jenkins, 21, a senior music education student from Orlando, was unaware of gang violence at FAMU.
“This is an institution of higher learning and you can’t be a thug in school at the same time,” Jenkins said.
According to the Florida Department of Corrections Web site, http://www.dc.state.fl.us, just about every state and major city has problems with gangs, chiefly motivated by the illegal drug trade.
“These local groups form based on common interests and a sense of loyalty to individuals from their city, neighborhood, street, or housing complex. Often the group evolves, and adopts an alliance with a national street gang such as the Bloods, Crips, or Chicago-based Folk Nation and People Nation sets and uses their symbols as identifiers,” the Web site stated.
Some Tallahassee gangs go by the name of Black United Soldiers, Joe Louis Street posse, Basin Street Rat Pack and Young Gun.
“People tend to fight because they claim sides like the Southside and Westside, but it hasn’t been on a large scale since he’s been a resident here,” said Jeano Sede, 19, a sophomore education student from Tallahassee.
Scott said that Tallahassee does not have as much gang violence as some cities such as Chicago, Los Angeles, or New York. However, he believes that gang activity has a way of moving to less inconspicuous places for economic resources, new recruits and to build its empire.
Gregory L. Grady, supervisor of the Jake Gaither Community Center, agrees. As a concerned community member, Grady has watched the development of youth in the Tallahassee community for several years. He has formalized his own opinion regarding the pressing issue of gang violence in Tallahassee.
“The saying that states it takes a village to raise a child no longer works in this community because the village has isolated its youth,” said Grady.
He believes that those who are wealthy and have resources leave the community and abort the children.
“When this happens, they [youth] lose a sense of belonging; have no self-respect, and no self-love. As a result, many children are led to depend on false images and role models, which eventually leads to negative consequences such as gang violence,” Grady said.
Sherry Thompson, a police officer at the Tallahassee Police Department, strongly agrees.
“All kids are looking for a sense of acceptance and approval, unfortunately, sports teams and martial arts don’t appeal to all youth. Instead, their acceptance in gangs fuels a lot of crime, particularly commercial robberies, street robberies, shootings, beatings, and drive byes in Tallahassee,” Thompson said.
To report gang activity, the Leon County police department can be reached at 850-891-4200.