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Law enforcement keeps eye on gangs; has minimal encounters with such crime

PRINCETON — Mercer and McDowell counties are listed among eight West Virginia counties with the highest numbers of gang activity, according a report on gang violence recently released by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
According to the FBI’s 2011 National Gang Threat Assessment report, fewer than 1,000 gang members are active in Mercer and McDowell with all of the gangs operating in the area classified as “non-violent.”
Sgt. D.W. Miller with the West Virginia State Police Princeton detachment said law enforcement has minimal encounters with motorcycle and street gangs in the area.
“As far as motorcycle gang activity, we don’t have much,” Miller said. “There is supposedly a chapter of the Pagans operating in Tazewell County, but we’ve never dealt with them. The most problem we have with the motorcycle gangs in this area are when they throw a loud party and things of that nature. There are some street gangs that are active in the Bluefield area and a registered sex offender who lives in the area and belongs to MS-13, but we don’t really have any run-ins with gangs.”

Miller said police do try to keep tabs on possible gangs in the area.
“There really isn’t much to do to prevent them from setting up shop in an area,” Miller said. “They have started to trickle in to this area. When they do come in, we try to establish a rapport with them and keep tabs on their activities.”
Sgt. C.F. Kane with the West Virginia State Police Welch detachment said much of the gang activity that has occurred in McDowell County comes from people passing through the area rather than county residents.
“It’s very rare that we deal with it and not to a large scale, like you would see on TV or in larger cities,” Kane said. “At times, we have individuals that we encounter that are possibility affiliated from gangs but are not from this area but travel to this area for other reasons. There is gang activity throughout the county, but it is not very prevalent.”
Kane said information from the public is often law enforcement’s best tool in dealing with gang problems that do arise, and he encouraged residents to report suspicious activity to their local police.
“We try to keep in touch with the community and ask them to report any gang related activity,” Kane said. “If we learn of any activity, we will investigate it and try to get all of the information we can. If anyone has any tips, they can call them in anonymously for us to investigate. It takes citizens to keep us aware of what is going on the community. If a problem with a gang does arise, we do whatever it takes to curb that and investigate the situation.”
Messages left with Bluefield Police Chief J.W. “Joe” Wilson were not immediately returned as of Monday evening.
The FBI report stated five gangs are known to operate in West Virginia including the Black Guerrilla Family, Junk Yard Dogs, Latin Kings, Pagans Motorcycle Club and Warlocks Motorcycle Club. The FBI releases an annual report on gang activity of the nearly 1.4 million gang members and more than 33,000 gangs operating nationwide.

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