Monett Police Department hosts presentation on Missouri street gangs

Tuesday, April 28, 2009
The Monett Police Department recently sponsored a professional program on street gang activity at the Southwest Area Career Center in Monett. David Starbuck, president of the Missouri Chapter of the Midwest Gang Investigators Association, was the guest speaker for the event. Starbuck showed attendees actual T-shirts from gang members and canisters that have trap bottoms to hide drugs or other items. Pictured above, from left, are: Monett Police Officer Jarrod Jarvis, Monett Detective George Daoud and Starbuck. [Times photo by Darla Damrill]

Monett R-I School District faculty members, law enforcement officers and citizens were present during a recent presentation on "Missouri Street Gangs" that was held at the Southwest Area Career Center.

The program, sponsored by the Monett Police Department, was designed to help communities detect and recognize gang activity. David Starbuck, president of the Missouri Chapter of the Midwest Gang Investigators Association (MGIA), was the event's featured speaker.

Starbuck is a veteran of the Kansas City Police Department who worked narcotics for 21 of his 29 years with the department.

"Starbuck covers gangs and gang problems in 10 states," said Monett Police Chief Tim Schweder. "He's here to talk to the community and police officers to help provide aspects of what to look for regarding gang activity."

Starbuck kicked off the program by letting the audience know that proactivity was key to combatting gang activity within a community.

"Gang activity is a hot topic around the country and being proactive is the best approach," said Starbuck. "Street gangs are a social ill that happens in society. Awareness is always a key element."

Starbucks' power-point presentation included photos of gang members, gang aliases and other identifying factors of gang activity. According to Starbuck, there are two major types of gangs - California style and Chicago style.

California-style gangs usually refer to themselves as "bloods" or "crips." In the late 1980s, Missouri started seeing this type of gang activity.

"The majority of the gangs in Missouri use names as California-style gangs and most of them have never even been there (California)," Starbuck said.

Chicago-style gangs are generally established in prisons. Over the years, cities like Springfield and St. Louis have been heavily impacted by these types of gangs.Chicago-style gangs are referenced as either "folk nation," or "people nation." Under these designations, gang members wear their ball caps with the bill to the right if they are affiliated with "people nation" and to the left if they "family nation" members.

Starbuch also noted that Southeast Asian and Hispanic gangs have increased throughout the midwest. Regions where there are poultry plants tend to have larger gang-related issues, according to Starbuck.

Another form of gang activity called "cyber banging" has presented itself on the Internet over the past 10 years. Social networking sites like MySpace and Facebook are utilized as a tool for gang members to recruit new members as well as taunt rival gangs.

Some identifying factors of gangs may include symbols such as a five-pointed crown, a six-pointed star, the number 13 (Sureno's), the number 14 (Norteno's), T-shirts with names of fallen gang members on them and brandings on skin such as tattoos.

Graffiti is another way to identify gang activity. Gang member graffiti will have the same identifying factors as the gang it is representing.

These markings are generally used to define gang territories, to challenge other gangs or to form alliances. Graffiti also serves as memorials to fallen gang members.

Starbuck said smaller towns generally have what are called "hybrid" gangs, a mix of influences from other gangs with more non-traditional factors, thus making them more difficult to identify or classify. Although graffiti can be gang related, there is another form of graffiti called "tagger graffiti" that is not gang related. This form of graffiti is usually in large print and most frequently seen on railroad cars. Taggers use their artistic expressions to compete against each other. The name "tagger" originated from the well-known phrase of "tag your it."

According to Monett Police Chief Tim Schweder, Monett has a city ordinance that declares graffiti as a form of property damage.

After Starbuck's presentation, the police chief gave attendees the opportunity to ask questions.

Monett Intermediate School Principal Peg Bryan asked what can be done to help deter kids from getting involved in gang-related activities.

Starbuck said there is usually a lot of peer pressure from other kids, making support from home and from parents essential.

"Unfortunately parents tend to deny their child may be participating in gang-related activities," said Starbuck. "Some families accept it, especially in certain cultures where it is already in the family."

"Gang members in high school are going to elementary and intermediate schools to try to recruit kids to gangs," said Monett Police Officer Jarrod Jarvis.

Jarvis said he would like to see good high school role models going to the elementary and intermediate schools to show them it is not necessary to be in a gang to be accepted.

Jarvis will be participating in a 12-week training program relating to gang activity. Once completed, he will start training the sixth grade level students at the Monett Schools.

According to Starbuck, the profile of a gang member used to include coming from a dysfunctional family with low income, no male role model and educational issues where the child's grades drop.

"Now, there is no standard profile," said Starbuck. "Fascination and the thrills and excitement with the dark side seem to be what pulls kids toward gangs.

"Kids need positive reinforcement," added Starbuck. "A kid's morale can be empowered with small things; building blocks."

For more information and questions pertaining to gangs and gang-related activities, patrons can visit or contact the Monett Police Department.

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