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Kearney finds gang numbers are on the rise
Gang activity in Kearney - it was one city council candidate's campaign issue back in November that never really got off the ground.
Now, some hard numbers are coming out of the Kearney Police Department. They are numbers that will likely shock you.
A lot of people may find it hard to believe that there are gangs in Kearney and the numbers show they're on the rise.
In the past three years, Kearney police officials have seen gang membership in the area double and those gangs are still actively recruiting.
It's not something you think about, but something you need to know.
"It's kind of an unfortunate state of mind people think that the gang issue is only a big city problem. We're seeing gangs in every rural community coast to coast," said Officer David Stott.
Operating in the Kearney area there are roughly 10 different gangs and 70 active gang members. It is a small number, but one that has grown.
Many of these gangs have the same name as known criminal groups out in the east coast or west coast, but police said they're not the same.
They're what's called a "Hybrid Gang" meaning the name is all they may have in common with their geographic counterpart. They don't have the same leadership, codes of conduct, nor do they always use the same colors and symbols.
"I know there's some people thinking that sounds like a wanna be to me. We don't like that word if they're acting like a gang member - they're taking part in gang style activity, they're dressing like it, they're talking like it, they're a gang member," said Stott.
Many of the members are young - 14 to 25. And they're looking to add to their numbers.
That's why law enforcement is being pro-active raising awareness in children and parents.
"If they're wearing a specific color predominately or if they're changing their friends - all of a sudden they're coming into money they have no explanation for or even material items - i-pods, watches," Stott said.
Other things to keep an eye out for - signs, odd writing and numbers adding up to 13 and 14.
"The 13 is going to be representative of the letter "M" so an allegiance to the Mexican mafia. That will be like your 'serenios' 14 is going to represent North or "Nortenios". Those are the two big numbers that we see as as far as representation out here," said Stott.
These gangs leave their mark on the Kearney area by distributing drugs, committing crimes like burglaries, robberies assaults.
"Anytime you have a group of members with that motive to commit these crimes you have that potential for violence," Stott said.
A lot of that activity is happening in the south part of town.
"We see a lot more of our activity in that part of town than any place else, but that's to say it doesn't happen anywhere else," said Stott.
Because it is happening. And knowing it is, is to your advantage.
And Just to put things into perspective remember Kearney has roughly 10 gangs and 70 gang members. Omaha has 73 gangs, 3100 members.
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