Kingman not a haven for gangs, but law officers keep an eye out, anyway

As a city experiencing growing pains, one problem Kingman does not have is dealing with gangs.

And law enforcement is determined to keep it that way.

"We're taking a proactive approach to gangs in the community," said Kingman police Capt.

Larry McGill.

"We identify members and pursue them vigorously for any criminal activity."

Crimes most associated with gang members are car, home and business burglaries as well as drug sales.

Earlier this year, local veterinarians were targeted by burglars for date rape drugs such as Ketamine, said Arizona Department of Public Safety Sgt.

Bob Williamson, head of the Gang Intelligence Team Enforcement Method (GIT-EM).

The six-member GIT-EM task force is made up of one detective from the Mohave County Sheriff's Office, one Kingman police detective, two Bullhead City police detectives and two officers from the state Department of Public Safety, Williamson said.

Its goal is to identify gang members through networking between the law enforcement agencies and keeping close track of gang members' criminal careers.

"We have a statewide database built up on gang activities," Williamson said.

Kingman's local gang members are white - some associated with white supremacists or skinheads.

Williamson estimates there are about 35-40 documented gang members in the Kingman area.

Bullhead City, however, has about five times that, with about 200 identified members.

The casinos at Laughlin and the Colorado River traffic from large population centers in California and Las Vegas are reasons why Mohave Valley, Lake Havasu City and Bullhead City have more gang problems, Williamson said.

With a small minority population, Kingman does not have a Hispanic, American Indian or black gang problem, he said.

Most members are actually wannabes, not hard-core members.

They range in age from the mid-teens to the mid-20s.

Most are male.

Female gang members are relatively rare in Mohave County.

Most act as associates or girlfriends of members, Williamson said.

Gang activity can be is multi-generational, or passed down from older brother or cousin to a younger sibling, Williamson said.

Gang activity can also evolved from residents of certain neighborhoods.

Neighborhoods in Kingman most susceptible to gangs are the Butler and Birdland areas, Williamson said.

Some members are known to wear traditional gang clothing such as baggy pants, plaid shirts or bandannas on their heads, usually in various colors such as blue or red.

Symbols, tattoos and hand gestures play a role in identifying those who are in gangs, Williamson said.

Williamson said the task force is keeping a watchful eye on gang activity.

Crimes committed by gang members will be dealt more harshly than if the same crime is done by a non-gang member.

"The district attorney has enhanced penalties toward gang members," Williamson said.

"We'll find room at the jail for them."

The task force works through Kingman's schools to help identify potential gang members and deal with the students directly to keep them from heading down that path.

Signs of potential gang activity are lower grades and behavioral changes, Williamson said.

School resource officers talk with kids directly, showing them an alternative to gangs and drugs, Williamson said.

Counsel sessions and after-school classes with parents are also solutions to keeping kids from joining gangs, Williamson said.

"Teachers are a real good source," Williamson said.

"We want to put the pressure on kids by working with teachers and parents.

It's a preventive maintenance.

However, some kids are just jerks in life."

The last resort is to send harder-core potential gang members to a MCSO boot camp located at the Kingman airport area.

"That's their last chance," Williamson said.

"It's their wake-up call.

Otherwise, they'll end up doing serious jail time."