Expert says gangs are evolving

STATELINE —The most important thing to a gang is its status because its status is its power.“It’s all about power through the projection of fear,” said Ed de Velasco, the retired head of the Florida gang initiative told the fifth annual Northern Nevada Gang Symposium on Thursday.Gangs use many mediums to project fear through the community to further their own status, which equates to power, de Velasco said. Despite being illegal, many gangs use graffiti to mark territory.“They have to take credit, that’s where their power comes from,” de Velasco said. “These gangs are about power through the projection of fear.”De Velasco said today, gang members are moving to music to convey their status and their power to their communities.“Each song is a story of what they’re doing,” de Velasco said. “This is how the gang communicates.”The gang’s communication and its stories are about its drugs, its turf, its guns and its violence. One of the weak points of the gangs is they seek the notoriety to increase their power in the community through the fear the community has of them, he said.“They want the community to know who did it. They benefit from fear,” he said.De Velasco said gangs often times are working more than drugs. He said the other criminal enterprises — guns and violence — are just as integral to gang members.“If I’m working the drugs, I’m working the guns,” he said.When de Velasco works a case, he does not focus on a single individual. Law enforcement is set up to bust the individual but a shift in mentality is needed to break up gangs, he said.The gangs and the gang members are the ones who do the heavy and light lifting for the cartels. It’s not just being workers, peddling product on the streets, but also the enforcement side the gangs take care of.“The gangs are the enforcers for the cartel,” he said.Gangs are becoming more sophisticated although some of that sophistication has growing pains. To ease those pains and hurdles, many gangs are using younger members of the community who are tech savvy to do work for them. By bringing a juvenile onboard a gang member can have someone more tech savvy than himself set up Internet communications or get information, Gang Intelligence Analyst Michael Walker said.“They’re furnishing kids with cash,” to do technical lifting, he said.


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