For the first time in 10 years, there are confirmed gangs in Aiken County, and investigators say they're looking for members.
Crime Team 12's Kristen Cosby has been investigating some of the signs of gang activity.
Aiken Public Safety Officer Nancy Kieltsch says it’s clear that in the last few months, about a dozen gangs have organized in Aiken County.
“They'll wear the same style clothing, they'll have bandanas,” Kieltsch says.
Public Safety has been watching groups in Aiken for about a year and now feels comfortable calling them gangs.
The writing is on the wall everywhere.
“Here ‘negate’ means ‘deny yourself'," says Kieltsch, pointing out some graffiti. "What that means is if you're caught by law enforcement you are to deny that you belong to this particular gang. This pi symbolizes a family on this gang graffiti and officers say a family is really what many gang members are looking for.
“They're looking for something bigger than what they have currently, which is sometimes nothing, and what the gang does for them is provides that bigger something, that bigger family,” says Kieltsch.
Captain Wendell Hall doesn't want to alarm you, but he does want you to know that law enforcement across the area is working together to watch gangs.
“We're trying to stay ahead of the curve on this, be proactive instead of reactive,” Hall says.
Captain Hall says few gangs have committed serious crimes, but he has seen them vandalize houses trying to recruit members.
Gangs typically look for members between the ages of 12 and 25. Other than that, they don't discriminate.
“Completely across the board: male, female, black, white.”
So, officers continue learning about the new gangs, in hopes they'll become a thing of the past. And, Captain Hall wants to stress, Aiken Public Safety has shared what they're learning with surrounding cities and Aiken County. He says the agencies are now working together to watch these gangs, because the gangs certainly don't stop at the city limits.
There are about a dozen gangs in Aiken County. While Public Safety doesn't have an exact count of the gang members, they say a gang is defined by at least three people. So the gangs have at least three members, and most have more.