Anti-gang group kicks off attempt to address problem

TUPELO – A newly formed gang-resistance group hopes to curtail a growing problem in Mississippi.
The Northern district members of the Mississippi Association of Gang Investigators met Wednesday get to discuss the workings of the association and get aquatinted with members from various agencies.
Attending were representatives from the Tupelo Police Department, Columbus Police Department, Grenada Police Department, Oxford Police Department, University of Mississippi Campus Police and the FBI.
Kenny Meaders, a former Tupelo policeman and current chief of schools for the Columbus School District, was elected president of the Northern district of the 6-month-old association.
The Mississippi Association of Gang Investigators is made up of law enforcement agencies from all over the state and operates out of three chapters.
Meaders said it was created as a way for agencies to stay ahead of a growing gang problem in Mississippi.
“Gangs have been around for a long time and we’ve gotten behind over the years dealing with them,” said Meaders. “This association will allow us as law enforcers to pool our resources to attack the problem before it gets out of control.”
Meaders said that contrary to popular belief, Mississippi has some of the same gangs as cities like Chicago and Memphis.
“We have Vice Lords, Gangster Disciples and other gangs that the big cities have, just not on as wide a scale,” explained Meaders.
Lisa Green, an investigator with the U.S. Department of Justice Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, said communication among agencies is important in fighting gang problems.
Gangs tend to communicate better than law enforcement, Green said, so the association will work to bridge the communication gap.
Tupelo Police School Resource Officer Jon Bramble said even though Tupelo doesn’t have a gang problem, membership in the association still will be beneficial.
“This is networking at its best,” said Bramble. “Pooling together resources to prevent a problem keeps us from having one down the road.”
Green said gang prevention has to start in the home and schools.
“Parents have to get involved in helping to stop kids from joining gangs,” she said. “See what your kids are doing and who they’re hanging out with. Gangs aren’t just kids having fun. It’s dangerous and potentially deadly.”

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Danza Johnson/Daily Journal