BANGOR — Gangs will be the No. 1 law enforcement problem in the country by the turn of the century.
That dire prediction came from two law enforcement consultants who conducted a seminar Monday and Tuesday in Bangor on juvenile crime and gang-related issues.
Gangs are a trend nationwide, according to investigators Tim Guerrette and Chris Freeman, who are members of a gang task force in southwest Florida. The numbers of female gangs are especially on the rise, they said.
The men travel throughout the country educating police, teachers, school administrators and counselors on the histories and profiles of gangs and how to identify graffiti, interact with gang members and determine whether a juvenile has a gun. Their goal is to prevent the spread of gangs.
“We know Bangor isn’t gang-ridden,” said Guerrette, who graduated from Bangor High School in 1985. “But everywhere in the United States, whether it’s Caribou or Florida, there is some sort of gang-type affiliation, whether it’s a wannabe type or the real hard core.”
Eight officials attended the seminar, which was held at the Northeast Auto School. Among them were a Brewer High School administrator, a University of Maine police officer and a representative from the Shaw House, a shelter for troubled youngsters.
While the Hollywood-inspired image of a gang may not be pervasive in the area, a Bangor police officer who attended the seminar said gangs can be considered to exist here.
“A gang is two or more people committing a crime,” said Keith Mercier, youth services liason at the Bangor Police Department. “They’re here and they’re on our horizon, and if we don’t get a grip now, they’ll become a problem down the road.”
In fact, warned Freeman, “once gangs are in a community, you can’t get rid of them. They’re like a cancer.”
But, he said, if gangs can be kept out of the schools where they recruit heavily, “you’ve got a good chance on keeping them out of the community.”
Guerrette said Tuesday that he and his partner “open people’s eyes.”
“Many times, especially in smaller communities like Bangor, people will say, `We have no problem with gangs,”‘ he said. “But, after coming to the class they say, `Oh, yeah, I’ve seen that before.”‘
Chris Greeley, a detective with the Brewer Police Department, said Tuesday that Brewer had “quite a bit of graffiti.” He said the seminar would help him recognize if it was “gang affiliated or random vandalism.”
Meanwhile, in Rockport, a street gang known as the Crips may be trying to initiate members. During a raid of a New Rockland Road home on Jan. 16, authorities found evidence of initiation rites and cult activity, as well as evidence of bomb making, illegal drug activity, stolen goods, stolen weapons, whips and other implements of torture.
Guerrette said Tuesday gangs burgeoned in the 1980s with the introduction of crack cocaine.
Guerrette argued that gangs are glorified through MTV, movies and even sports. After some sports figures score points, they have been known to make the hand sign of a particular gang, he said.