Special Report: Concerns over gang influence in area schools

In its 2014 Texas Gang Threat Assessment, the Department of Public Safety admits concerns over juvenile involvement in gangs and the impact it could have on Texas schools.

Local authorities say the worst of gang activities remains on the streets. But in an interview a former gang member says he's been witness and a perpetrator of gang activity and associations within local schools.  For him it started around the tender age of 12. At the request to not use his real name, we are calling him Bobby. 

Bobby says he got mixed up in the influences of the wrong people. Not just in the streets but in the schools. 

"Before you knew it i was skipping school and just thinking it was cool," Bobby said. "All they care about is getting money but getting it the wrong type of way." 

He claims seeing the gang influence not just in high school hallways but as early as middle school.  

"They give you a bunch of knowledge supposedly that really wasn't no knowledge. It's just, they try to trick you into it. Whole bunch of propaganda," Bobby said.  

Whether it's a problem is debatable in Southeast Texas, but what's not debatable is that parents need to keep watch.
A 12News investigation began in Orange County where the arrests and conviction of members of the Solid White Soldiers have made headlines in the past couple of years. 

Captain Tom Ray with the Sheriff's Office says gangs prominent in Orange County like the SWS and the Aryan Brotherhood typically recruit in prison. People rarely become members if they have not been incarcerated.  

Ray says there are individuals in the City of Orange who identify with the Crips or Bloods.

West Orange Assistant Police Chief Jessie Romero could not refute gang activity at the high school. But he says if members are present, they are staying low.  

In Beaumont, police say gangs are considered more as cliques. For years rumors circulated of Crips celebrating 5/9 "Hoova" day every May 9. The holiday affiliated with gang activity originated at Central High School and grew to other schools but sources in BISD say May 9th always ends up being a typical work day.
Sources add the district has had no confirmed gang related incidents since the creation of the district's police department in 2007. Beaumont police say investigations have shown gang members in the city are more often 'posers' than true to the gang.  
"Some guys who make claims of being in a gang, one week they'll all be together doing something and that's not just how traditional gangs operate," Sgt. Mike Custer with Beaumont P.D. Special Assignment Unit says. 

Gangs must be taken more seriously in Port Arthur. The police department's street crimes unit is known across Jefferson County as the experts in the area.  

Crips and Bloods were once the prominent gangs, but now it is hispanic gangs like rivals Surenos known for wearing blue and tagging territory with the number 13 and the Nortenos affiliated with the color red and the number 14.  

"Port Arthur's gang problem, there's going to be kids that go to school and in the school they're going to communicate," Officer Marcelino Molfino said. 
The district and Memorial High school let 12News visit with three seniors. All three admitted to seeing an occasional hallway fight in their four years but say the atmosphere is otherwise no different from other schools.  

Jesus Reyes came to Port Arthur from California in the 6th grade.  
"Over there's worse than out here. That's gang related over there," Reyes said of California schools.  
Officer Nate Mingo is often assigned to the 9th grade campus and sometimes Memorial High. He says attitudes towards gangs are changing and students are speaking out.  
"There's always the potential that something that happened away from the campus can be brought into the school. That's the biggest problem. I applaud the children. A lot of them now are like that's stupid, take that away from school," Officer. Mingo said. 

Superintendent Dr. Mark Porterie says students who pose a threat are removed from campus.  

"We have to ensure that every student and faculty member feels safe," Dr. Porterie said. 

The Jefferson County Probation Office says it currently has 42 juveniles on probation who have gang connections.  The office believes that number is likely higher but it has not been able to identify or verify other juveniles with suspected gang affiliations.


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