Longview residents urge police to release gang details
By Sarah Thomas email@example.com
April 16, 2013 at 10 p.m.
On the heels of a report about local street gangs, some Longview residents Tuesday called on police to be more open about the city's street gangs, including the what, when and where of their illegal operations.
"We cannot fight what we don't know about," said Madolyn Scott, a member of Neighborhood Crime Watch. "We have to know what is happening in this town."
Scott said she knew gangs operated in Longview but had no idea there were so many or that some members are older.
In a story published <a href="http://www.news-journal.com/news/police/police-say-gangs-operate-in-longview/article_3227f478-fea7-5fc4-a50a-03e5da10fc35.html">Sunday in the News-Journal</a>, Longview police Detective Lanie Smith said there are about 30 criminal street gangs active in the city and membership includes people ages 14 to 59.
Smith said local gang members are responsible for a variety of crimes including theft, assault and murder.
"We may be moving among some of these people, and we don't know it," Scott said.
Scott, who said she had believed gang members were teenagers, was shocked to learn that some gang members were of the age she said was "old enough to know better."
"I have this mindset that if there is a group of young people, I kind of try to stay away from them, you know, self protect. I'm not thinking about them being 40 or 50 years old," she said.
Scott added that the area of town her crime watch group monitors - which includes Sapphire, Birdsong, Lilly and McCarver streets - is quiet with little to no gang activity. But she said other parts of the city aren't that fortunate, and she believes people living in those areas have a right to know what kind of gang activity is prevalent in their neighborhoods.
"The whole city needs to know that information," Scott said.
Lamar Jones, who lives in Longview and is pastor at Galilee Baptist Church in Hallsville, said he, too, believes the community is entitled to more information about gangs and their activities.
Jones suggested people who are concerned meet with the police chief. He also suggested a town hall meeting.
"The police may be more open to discussing the issue in a setting like that than just putting it out there in the public," Jones said.
He said community members must speak out if they have concerns about crime in their neighborhoods.
"That needs to happen if we are going to address the gangs and get this under control," Jones said.
He added he is more concerned about the young people who are getting pulled into gangs than he is about what police aren't telling the public about the groups.
"As a community, we need to help these young people. We need to provide them with an opportunity to become a productive part of the community," Jones said.
In contrast, the Rev. J.D. Palmer of Mount Olive Baptist Church said he trusts the Longview police and stands by the department's decision not to release detailed information about area criminal gangs.
"They (LPD) should be as open as they can, but so much of police work is based on ongoing investigations and exposing certain information may hinder those investigations," he said. "We shouldn't expect them to expose everything they know."
Palmer said he believes telling the public where gangs are and what they are doing in specific areas is unnecessary and might create panic.
"If (the LPD) can monitor gang activity and keep it under control, the community doesn't need to know about it," he said. "If people start avoiding certain parts of town and start looking at certain people like they are up to something, that could cause even more problems."
Palmer added that, in his mind, keeping the community in the dark is sometimes more beneficial to the department's efforts to enforce the law.
"Once you make the community aware, you also make the criminals aware," he said. "So if they find out they are being watched, they will change."
Palmer, who said he is shocked by the number of street gangs, said the police are doing what they have been trained to do and that the community has to play a role in safety as well.
"I would prefer that the police do the job they have been trained for and that we as citizens trust the police department and support our police department," he said.