Forum Tackles Gang Problem In Charles (2024)

Charles County is home to more than 240 gang members, and many are robbing people, burglarizing houses and, in some cases, attacking one another with weapons and even pit bulls, a leading county gang expert said at a community forum last week in Waldorf.

"These guys are here. They're committing crimes here," Detective John Burroughs of the Charles County Sheriff's Office told the small gathering Thursday night, punctuating his remarks with photos and statistics projected in a computer slide presentation.

His remarks described a startling but hardly hopeless situation. Gang members are recruiting in schools and by boasting about gang life on Internet sites such as MySpace.

"All this stuff is online for your kids to see, and they're enamored by it," Burroughs said. "They look at it and go, 'Oh, wow, that's really cool, look at it. He's got the gun. He's got the face mask up. He's looking really hard-core.' " Burroughs said the number of members appears to be increasing, but that might be at least partially because of better monitoring.


Burroughs stressed that the Charles gang population is small compared with that of Prince George's County or Northern Virginia. "I definitely don't think it's unmanageable," he said.

Burroughs addressed a graffiti crime last weekend at Waldorf's Dr. Gustavus Brown Elementary School that baffled many residents. The same person or group drew graffiti that extolled white supremacy ("KKK" and "White Power") and a largely black gang, the Bloods. Such a juxtaposition made "absolutely no sense," Burroughs said.

"My honest feeling is it's just some idiot," he said in an interview after the meeting. "That just screamed to me of someone stirring up trouble."

In counties such as Charles that have a consistent but not overwhelming crime problem, gauging who is a gang member and who is a kid affecting certain styles and kinds of language can be challenging. Burroughs made no bones that genuine gang members, teenagers and young adults who band together and commit crimes, have taken root.


He said Charles has 50 members of the Bloods, 30 members of the Crips, 120 members of neighborhood gangs and 40 members of the MS-13 and 18th Street Hispanic gangs.

The estimates probably are low, he said, because they represent only the members officers have been able to document. The Charles gangs that have national names, such as Crips, are essentially local groups. Members get together to form "sets" and declare themselves a unit of a national gang. But they appear to operate independently, sometimes against each other.

Speaking at Benjamin Stoddert Middle School, Burroughs said Charles has a big challenge with neighborhood gangs, particularly a Waldorf-centered group called the Cut Boyz. That gang surfaced in 2005, when members chased a teenager through a neighborhood, beat him with baseball bats and then used the bats to vandalize 15 to 20 cars.


"They just beat the snot out of him," Burroughs said. "It was that brazen."

In Prince George's, he said, authorities have identified nine MS-13 sets, with a particularly large and troublesome one in Langley Park. In Northern Virginia, authorities estimate there might be several thousand MS-13 members, Burroughs said.

As is the case in other jurisdictions, he said, teenagers in Charles are not drawn to gangs solely for violence.

"With youths, they're still finding themselves. Puberty is hitting," Burroughs said. "Gangs really hold a strong sense of family for a lot of these kids. They're looking for somebody to elevate them."

The Cut Boyz don't necessarily wear identifying clothing, but they are visible on the Internet. They apparently have had a few run-ins to the north. Burroughs said a Prince George's police officer recently asked him, "Who are these Cut Boyz?"


The Blood sets in Charles often wear red clothing. Burroughs said they are likely to follow what Bloods in Northeastern cities are doing: switch to brown or green clothing, especially articles linked to a sports team.

"If you see the Boston Celtics walking down the street, and you're pretty sure they're not actually the Boston Celtics," Burroughs said, "that might be a Blood set."

Nationwide, the Bloods have a big presence on YouTube, with many members posting videos of them doing the "Blood Walk" dance, which looks innocent enough except for features such as chants of "blat," which means gunfire.

"And if you think that's not affecting your kids, you're absolutely wrong," Burroughs told the group.

The Crip sets in Charles often carry blue bandannas, hanging them from back pockets, looping them around their belts or tying them around their ankles, where they can be flashed and then covered back up to avoid detection. "In the schools, bandannas are a big deal," Burroughs said.


In Charles, MS-13 members aren't committing nearly the level of violence linked to them in other jurisdictions. They tend to be part of Charles's everyday society, working at construction sites, car washes and restaurants. Burroughs said he recently was served by a waiter with gold-capped front teeth bearing two cutout letters: an M and an S.

Burroughs, along with two other officers who spoke at the forum, said Maryland needs anti-gang laws similar to those in Virginia. They said efforts to pass such legislation in Maryland have failed.

Anyone with questions or information about gangs can call Burroughs at 301-932-2222.

Forum Tackles Gang Problem In Charles (2024)


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