Gang Experts Note Growing Presence

Stephanie Hooper and Andrew Wolfe, Nashua Telegraph (NH), Oct. 20

Many people don’t want to recognize that gangs are a growing problem in the state.

Actually, they’re everywhere, including the Nashua area, said Capt. Steve Church, a gang specialist at the Rockingham County House of Corrections.

Still, for some people, the notion of big-time gangs operating in the state is one that’s just too hard to believe.

New Hampshire: White Mountains, maple syrup and street gangs?

“If you live in N.H., you can not belong to a gang. It just can’t happen,” one writer commented in an online discussion on the topic of “Gangs of NH” at www.ubersite.com.

While some are in denial of the problem, local gang experts see the reality.

Church is the vice president of the recently formed New England chapter of the East Coast Gang Investigators Association. He’s been making it a point to focus on gang activity in the state since 1998, when gangs started to become an issue at the Brentwood jail facility.

“What’s going on in the streets directly affects what’s going on inside,” he said, explaining that when gang members have conflicts on the street, it raises tension among their comrades in the jail.

While refraining from saying New Hampshire has a gang “problem,” Church was quick to say the state is experiencing an increase in gang activity.

“It is happening,” he said. “I fully expect the issues to continue to increase.”

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In his most recent report, published this year for the National Alliance of Gang Investigators Associations, Daily states a majority of the national gangs in the Northeast appear to be “neighborhood-based” chapters without affiliations to national gang leaderships. He notes two national gangs, the Bloods and Latin Kings, appear to have a “strong presence” in the Northeast.

Northeast law-enforcement agencies reported nearly a 40 percent increase in gang activity in the last five years, according to Daily’s assessment. Several state agencies are among the 51 in the Northeast to contribute information for the assessment.

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All of the New England states were experiencing an influx of Hispanic gang members from the New York City area, according to the 2000 report.

That assessment certainly appeared to be the case in Nashua in 2003 and 2004, when Hispanic gang members with roots in the Big Apple caused serious trouble. But not all of the state’s gang activity is imported or has traveled far to get here.

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In the last 10 years, Church said he has seen an increase in membership of the largest, nationally established groups: Bloods, Crips, Latin Kings, Gangster Disciples and various Asian gangs. All are active in the state, he said.

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