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Thursday, March 23, 2017

Gangs actively recruiting in local schools

There’s been a resurgence of gang activity in Fairfax County, along with “heavy recruiting in our schools,” Jay Lanham, director of the Northern Virginia Regional Gang TaskForce, said at a meeting of the Board of Supervisors’ Public Safety Committee March 21.

The meeting featured a presentation on law enforcement policies on undocumented immigrants, as well as the status of gangs.

There’s been a lot of attention on gangs following the discovery of two bodies in Holmes Run StreamValley Park in Mason District last month. The Fairfax County Police Department hasn’t yet determined whether those individuals were murdered in Fairfax County, said Police Chief Ed Roessler Jr.

There’s been a “definite increase” in narcotics, guns, and sex trafficking, Lanham said. “Most alarming to all of us is the increase in juvenile crime and violent crime.”

“Malicious wounding and assaults have gone up in every district,” added Capt. Paul Cleveland, who oversees the gang unit in the FCPD’s Criminal Investigations Bureau. “There’s been a resurgence in all crimes,” as well as stepped-up gang recruiting in the schools.

Roessler put the situation into perspective: This year there was one murder in Fairfax County that was validated as gang related. Last year there were none, and in 2015, there were two.

Since last September, the gang task force identified seven gang-related homicides in the region. There were more than 20 in Northern Virginia and Southern Maryland in the past two years, and Fairfax County youths were involved in some of these incidents.

Youths at risk

Gangs are recruiting in schools because “they’re trying build up their numbers. They want to be the alpha dog in the area,” Roessler said. Kids are vulnerable because “they’re lacking a sense of family, and being recruited into a gang provides a sense of status.”

“Gangs are different now,” Cleveland noted. “They’re not as overt as they had been in the past. They changed their dress, they’ve changed their markings, and they’ve changed how they operate.” And they’re active on social media, using it as a recruiting tool, and that makes it difficult to track them.
“We should be angry about this,” said Mason Supervisor Penny Gross. “The gang members that are coming in now are different than the ones we saw 18 or 20 years ago. They are much, much more dangerous and they are preying on our schoolchildren.”

Gross is hosting a Town Hall on Gangs March 29, 7 p.m., at the Mason Government Center.

Both the law enforcement leaders and supervisors at the meeting agreed that more efforts aimed at prevention and education are needed to combat the growing influence of gangs on local youths.

“If kids have wholesome activities to engage in it makes them less of a target for gang recruiters,” said Board of Supervisors Chair Sharon Bulova.

Anti-gang initiatives, like after-school programs, aren’t robust enough and don’t reach enough kids, Gross said. More resources are needed, including federal funding.

Supervisor Pat Herrity (Springfield) noted that “about 1,500 undocumented children have been put in our schools in the last couple of years, so this problem really shouldn’t be too surprising.”

“We have a lot of native-born kids in gangs,” said Supervisor John Cook (Braddock), the chair of the Public Safety Committee. He agreed that “we need to give kids good alternatives to counteract bad influences.”

ICE raids

When it comes to the county’s relationship with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), Roessler said, “We are not immigration officers,” but “if you commit a crime, we will arrest you.”

The ICE raids being conducted throughout the country and in Fairfax County are “administrative raids,” Roessler said. “The Fairfax County Police Department does not participate in these administrative raids.” 

If a police officer on the street sees someone committing a crime or stops someone for probable cause, “we will do a record check and we might get a hit from ICE,” Roessler said. The officer and supervisor “need to look very carefully at what that hit is. Is it an administrative order from ICE, which we will basically not deal with, or is it a felony warrant for a crime?” If the latter is the case, police could arrest the person and bring him to the Adult Detention Center.

Custody would then be turned over the sheriff’s office for processing. The suspect’s fingerprints would go into the national system, which is monitored by ICE. “It’s up to ICE then to respond to the sheriff’s office to pick that person up,” Roessler said.

If ICE places an order to detain, the sheriff’s office must hold the person up to 72 hours, Sheriff Stacey Kincaid told the supervisors. That agreement is in a contract with a previous sheriff and will expire on April 2. After that, individuals with an arrest warrant and detainer will only be held up to 48 hours excluding weekends and holidays.

In 2016, the sheriff’s office received warrants and detainers for 289 inmates. ICE took custody of 258 of them, she said.

Not a sanctuary

Virginia attorneys general have issued opinions cautioning local law enforcement agencies against engaging in the enforcement of civil immigration laws, said Fairfax County attorney Elizabeth Teare. That includes “conducting any sort of raid or unprovoked stop of a citizen to demand proof of citizenship.”

However, if a police officer determines that an individual was previously convicted of a felony and deported and is now back in the United States, the FCPD can follow up with ICE.

Police do not target people who are undocumented or treat suspects differently depending on whether they are here lawfully or not, Roessler said. On the other hand, FCPD does not prohibit police officers from collaborating with ICE, sharing information with ICE or asking for assistance on a case. “We are not a sanctuary in any way,” he said.

“We do comply with all federal laws,” Cook said. “We have not received any communication from the federal government asking us to do something that we refuse to do. We’re not a sanctuary county. We’re in compliance with the law. But we enforce criminal laws and there are other agencies that do civil work and that’s their job and we do our job.”

Fairfax County is the safest jurisdiction of its size in the United States, and that’s because of community policing, said Bulova. People need to trust the police so they will report a crime, ask for help, or provide information as a witness. “If we don’t have that trust, then we jeopardize the safety of our community.” 


  1. Wow. Now Penny Gross is mad? Now? After her constituents have begged her for years to heed the blight, overcrowding, and crime that comes with importing hordes of destitute immigrants, leading to degraded schools and neighborhoods, and all she had to say previously were varieties of oh, there’s nothing I can do. My hands are tied. We are a welcoming community. Un-mowed lawns look like wild pasture meadows. And on and on. NOW she’s angry?

    1. No, Penny isn't angry. Her quote says, "We should be angry about this."

  2. Let ICE do it's job! I'm a legal immigrant and I say let the police do their jobs!

  3. It's fashionable for Penny to be angry now. She adjusts to her audience. However, she doesn't seem to be offering any solutions. J

  4. The article notes that youth are vulnerable because they are lacking a sense of family ..... then Sharon Bulova says we need wholesome activities for them to engage in so they are less of a target for gang recruiters. And Penny Gross says anti-gang initiatives, like after-school programs, aren’t robust enough and don’t reach enough kids. More resources are needed, including federal funding.

    Typical democrat response - more government programs and more funding.

    What youth need are loving and caring parents and a stable home environment. But liberal programs only seek to undermine the family unit, and diminish the role of parents. Is it any wonder our kids have so many problems today.

    1. What "liberal" programs undermine families and diminish the role of parents?

    2. Call it the soft bigotry of low expectations or whatever, but stupid, poor, and people generally unfit to parent are going to have children. They always have, and always will, no matter how much you bleat about the sanctity of the family unit. I’m happy to pay some amount for programs that help these children that by of no fault of their own have sh!tty parents. And if it cordons them off from me and my children, all the better.

    3. Well then. Kudos for your honest I guess

  5. "The ICE raids being conducted throughout the country and in Fairfax County are “administrative raids,” Roessler said."

    Looks like we have a new standard in law enforcement: "The Roessler Rule"; i.e. we'll ignore violations of the United States Code because...well, just because. This confuses political correctness with law enforcement. Whether or not Roessler cares to admit it, ICE isn't merely handing out tickets to the illegals its agents apprehend. Under most circumstances, they're headed back to where they came from. That's hardly an administrative sanction. So, it's time for Roessler and the rest of the gooders in county government to get their priorities straight and start enforcing all the laws. That's one sure way to put a dent in the gang problem.

  6. The dreamer program has destroyed families. Allowing children and young people to stay with relatives and friends is not that same as being with your parents (that were deported). This is a liberal program that has allowed these young people to be swept up in gangs and sex trafficking. Yes, we do need more after school programs. We need to really look into who are the "legal guardians" of children. There is a shortage of after school care in this area that is offered. If you go and check it out it looks like prison guard rules for the most part. It is causing young people as soon as they have children of school age to move out or choose private/parochial schools because the public schools are terrifying with gang recruitment and the lack of English being spoken. Mason district is a giant ESL program.

    Penny Gross is terrible. She is outdated and cares only about lining her own pockets. She has created this problem. Encourage planned neighborhoods (not more apartments) that will attract FAMILIES. We need people that will throw down roots and buy property and create communities.

    1. The dreamer program is the one aspect of immigration reform that even hard core immigration reformers like me don't want to touch. It's just too cruel to return an innocent young person to some country that he or she has no recollection of.

  7. "There’s been a resurgence of gang activity in Fairfax County" - very wrong statement. Gang activity has been going on for years (why would we need police in schools if it wasn't?). Its only now that the gangs have been killing and getting caught.

  8. Hmm... the Dem's segregated Annandale High School in 2011... I want to vomit over what it has done to AHS ever since... I really find Tessie Wilson from the day to be deplorable, horrible people for what they've done... now look... Oh well, it doesn't matter...

  9. The following is missing from the story...

    “We’ve had about 1,500 undocumented minor children put in our school systems over the past couple years. So, [these] problems shouldn’t really be too surprising,” Supervisor Pat Herrity of the Springfield District said.

    I do disagree with Herrity on one point. They are illegal not undocumented.