Cities across the country are facing a new kind of gang problem, involving loosely affiliated, but heavily armed, neighborhood organizations that deal drugs and ferociously defend their small turf, acting Deputy Attorney General Craig Morford said Monday.
Federal and local law enforcement officials have long identified such gangs as major factors in New Orleans’ violent street culture. But Morford said that in recent years officials across the country are also starting to focus on these organizations, finding that they are often more violent than established groups such as the Bloods or the Crips.
“They are shooting at each other with a complete wantonness that is different than before,” said Morford, who is the second-in-command at the U.S. Department of Justice. Morford, who is scheduled to give a speech today at the International Association of Chiefs of Police conference, met with attorneys at U.S. Attorney Jim Letten’s office on Monday.
These proto-gangs don’t have the hierarchical structure of a traditional gang. Instead, they tend to be named after a street that the members hail from. The members are often young, sometimes juveniles, Morford said.
Because of the lack of deeply ingrained organization, law enforcement didn’t always pay attention to these groups. But that has begun to change, with U.S. attorney offices leading task forces that bring local and federal law enforcement together to tackle such groups, Morford said.