County combats suburban gang activity

Bermuda District Supervisor Dorothy Jaeckle held a community meeting last Tuesday evening in the gymnasium of Harrowgate Elementary and had Chesterfield Police Det. Mark Haynes share with community members the county’s approach to combat suburban gang activity.

“I had received some emails and phone calls from people that were concerned and wanted to know what Chesterfield was doing about what happened in Broadwater,” Jaeckle said. “So that’s why I had the meeting.”                               

The meeting fell two months after police linked gang activity to the shooting and subsequent death of an innocent bystander, 13-year-old Devin Hawkins, which occurred in Broadwater Townhomes in April. Taking into consideration the positive youth programs currently running in the neighborhood, Jaeckle deems the tragedy “devastating because there are good things going on there.”

 Jaeckle had gang expert Det. Haynes deliver an informative presentation on the influx of gang activity into suburban localities, even Chesterfield County. For a half hour, he educated the room on the characteristics of gangs and the motives of their members, as well as trends often observed with our own community.  He said some indications of gang activity are often – but not always – linked to the following activities: bullying, fighting, robberies, shootings, drug dealing, and tagging buildings, signs, etc. with graffiti.
Det. Haynes, who is himself a resident of Chesterfield County, said the issue is a “challenge throughout the county,” and part of addressing the problem is community outreach and creating a partnership with the local communities.  

“We can’t do this alone,” said Det. Haynes. “We can enforce the laws and we can arrest people, but the idea is about protecting our children and protecting our grandchildren.” Placing an emphasis on educating county citizens so they can spot the signs ahead of time, Det. Haynes equates the approach to cancer: “Our hope is that by working with the community, working with the parents, educating people, they can see the sign ahead of time – sort of like cancer: the earlier you catch it, the easier it is to deal with. The longer it goes, the harder it is.”

Barbara Estes, who for the last 25 years has been the school secretary at C.C. Wells Elementary in Chester, attended the meeting and felt that too often issues are addressed too late. “Looking out for each other, and learning more about what’s going on, is the way to try and prevent things,” she said.

Det. Haynes’ newly formed gang section with two other detectives, a sergeant and an analyst, is working to spread that message to hopefully eradicate gang activity in Chesterfield County. The division of the Chesterfield County Police Department overseeing gang-related activity can be reached at gtf@chesterfield.gov, or at Crime Solvers at 748-0660.  Dorothy Jaeckle, Bermuda Supervisor, can be reached at jaeckled@chesterfield.gov or 748-4364.

“The only way that we can have a safe community is by citizen awareness and by citizens seeing things that look out of order and letting the police know,” Jaeckle said.

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