Pine Bluff has a very real gang problem, a Pine Bluff Police Department detective told the Pine Bluff School District transportation and security departments during a presentation Thursday at the Jordan Chaney Administration Office.
“Gangs are everywhere,” said Jerry Lambert, detective over gang intelligence for the Pine Bluff Police Department. “They’re on your buses, in our schools and in your homes. The gang population is on the rise too.”
Lambert said the Bloods, Crips, Vice Lords and Disciples are the four most pervasive gangs in Pine Bluff, but each gang has many branches — each of which may maintain its own identity and cultural norms.
“These gang members encompass the neighborhoods that you and I both live in,” Lambert said. “And it’s not fair as taxpayers to be unaware if where you live has been deemed a high-crime-rate area.”
Identifying the gangs and the members is not difficult, Lambert said, and he encouraged bus drivers and security guards at the schools to take note of groups wearing school uniforms, shoe laces and hats in certain ways. Lambert also warned the audience about gang members slashing slits into their eyebrows and color coordination in clothing as key identifiers for possible gang activity.
“Jotting down this information and passing it on to security officials could save your life and the life of others,” Lambert said. “It’s time we quit turning a deaf ear and a blind eye to what’s happening in our city. It’s time we pull our resources together and get involved.”
Lambert said the crime rates in the city have shot up over the years, due in large part to the gangs that call Pine Bluff home — they have the numbers and statistics to prove it, he said.
“A large percentage of the city’s assaults, domestic disputes, break-ins, shootings, stabbings and other violent crimes are gang related,” Lambert said.
Most guns confiscated during arrests are stolen from outside of Pine Bluff or even the state, Lambert said, making it more difficult for police to track down the source before a crime is committed.
Gangs organize themselves in ascending order by sergeants, lieutenants, generals and captains, Lambert said, with the “OG’s” (original gangsters) at the head of the table.
“The gangs here are so structured; it’s like the military,” Lambert said. “Our young people won’t go through the proper education system, but they’ll learn every facet of the gang culture they’ve pledged themselves to.”
Lambert said the gangs target young kids — some before they reach their teenage years — who are poverty stricken and cannot provide for themselves. Older gang members will recruit younger kids, Lambert said, taking them under their wing and providing essentials and more, in turn making them indebted to the gang.
“These kids may not be getting attention, money and friendship at home,” Lambert said. “And when the gang shows them these things, they pledge their allegiance to the gang fully. Then their friends see them start to gain prominence in the gang and move up in rank, so they want to join too. That’s how it all starts.”
Lambert said social media has served as a springboard to spread gang culture throughout the area and across the nation. He said his department often comes across pictures of gang members or sometimes even more dangerous and volatile “wanna-be” gang members flaunting money, guns, gang signs and colors.
“These pictures on the Internet are embarrassing,” Lambert said. “Sometimes it could even be our kids, nieces or nephews. The problem is very real.”
Another meeting will be held for the transportation and security staffs at the school district on Monday, Aug. 4 at Jordan Chaney where documentaries and literature will be presented on the gang problem in Pine Bluff.