May 9, 2007
AIKEN, S.C.---Officers all over the Palmetto State are getting training on what to do about two growing problems across the southeast: gangs and drugs.
Police departments from the state capitol along with FBI agents came together to share tactics on how to gather intelligence on gangs.
No matter where the gangs are, officers say the problems are the same. In order to fight the war on gangs on the streets of Aiken, officers need to know the trends across the state.
It's why agencies from all over South Carolina are now working together to watch these gangs...because the gangs certainly don't stop at the city limits
"Columbia, Greenville, we all see the same things, just at a different level," said Sgt. Steve Deibel of Aiken County.
In the last year and a half, Aiken Public Safety has identified at least 12 gangs in the area with more than 700 members---and the writing is on the wall, in the form of graffiti all over town.
Just two months ago a student at Aiken High School told police a fight broke out because another student "disrespected her colors."
"As kids get bullied in schools, they seek protection, and gangs are perfect place for that," Sgt. Deibel said.
And back in February, Aiken Public Safety says a "gang showdown" broke out in a McDonald's parking lot.
But Aiken deputies insist there's no need to be alarmed...at least not yet.
"We here in Aiken have a stable condition, but it can always get worse," Sgt. Deibel said.
While Aiken doesn't have a huge influx of gang activity, Sgt. Deibel says, it's only a matter of time before it will.
"With organization comes an increase in violence, property crimes and violent crimes," he said. "We know its going to happen one day."
Deputies say there are some signs at home that parents can look out for. For example, if your child has been a good student and then all of a sudden changes his or her behavior drastically by becoming problematic both in the classroom and at home and is seen hanging out with a different group of friends, that's a red flag your child may be involved with a gang.