JACKSON COUNTY, MS (WLOX) - The word from police is street gangs are dealing drugs, trafficking guns and committing violent crimes throughout South Mississippi. It's gotten so bad, District Attorney Tony Lawrence recently declared a war on street gangs.
We asked some Jackson County residents if they believed gang violence was a problem in their community?
"Not that I'm aware of," Judith Western said.
"No, I haven't seen any gangs," Robert Walker said. "I haven't been a victim of any gang violence or anything like that, so I don't think it's a problem."
Most law abiding citizens don't realize there is a criminal subculture preying on the community.
"I think a lot of times it's the ostrich with the head in the sand, so to speak," Jackson County Chief Investigator Capt. Curtis Spiers said. "If you don't acknowledge it is there, you don't believe it's there, but it is there. We see murders, rapes, the whole gamut."
Spiers investigates gang violence on a regular basis. He said the most prevalent gangs around are The Simon City Royals, Black Gangster Disciples, Latin Kings, Crips, Sovereign Citizens, Bloods, and the Vice Lords.
"Typically The Black Gangster Disciples are in the illegal drug trade, if you will. Crack cocaine, cocaine, marijuana, spice. We are seeing a lot of spice coming out of gangs now," Spiers said. "Whatever they can get a quick buck by selling it and preying on citizens is basically what they are doing. The Simon City Royals, they are known for a lot of burglaries, robberies, a lot of houses broken into, property stolen, trafficking a lot of prescription medicines."
In the past several years, Spiers said the gang activity is getting worse.
"They seem to be getting larger, braver, bolder, less deterrent from law enforcement," Spiers said. "They don't appreciate the laws of the United States of America and they seem to be showing less regard for law which is alarming for law enforcement. It's National Police Week and we are burying two of our own who lost their lives on a traffic stop, a routine traffic stop."
Across South Mississippi, law enforcement agencies are committed to putting a stop to this type of activity, but Spiers says it will take everyone's help to be successful.
"Be nosey neighbors. Be aware of what is going on in your neighborhoods," Spiers said. "You know your neighbors, you know what vehicles they drive. If you see suspicious cars or suspicious activity, contact your local law enforcement."
"The war on gangs is a serious commitment we are making to investigate these crimes, to see what laws they are breaking, and charge them effectively," Spiers said. "We have the Safe Streets Task Force through the FBI here in Jackson County, that has just been outstanding in targeting criminal intoxicants and sending them to prison for a long time."