LAS VEGAS (KSNV MyNews3.com) —
Picture a sold-out basketball game at the Thomas & Mack Center. Now picture everyone in those seats as a gang member.
That gives you an idea of the number of gang members in Clark County: nearly 17,000 gang members representing more than 600 gangs that bring drugs, prostitution and even murder.
Tommie Scott knows all too well about the gang life – he moved to Las Vegas as an experienced gangbanger.
“Our environment is infested with gangs already to start off,” he said. “And when you grow up not having much, you tend to live in those type of areas.”
| Coming Friday: In Part Two, we hear more about the challenges police face in dealing with the danger of gang members who can communicate instantaneously with each other. On News 3 Live at 5|
His story is a familiar one for many who are in gangs. Like his father before him, Scott grew up in a poor neighborhood in southern California. Every day he saw crime, violence and anger.
“My peers, my environment all played a big role,” he said. “It was kind of, you can pretty much say, it was just a way of life.”
After the civil rights movement, two gangs emerged in Los Angeles -- the Bloods and the Crips.
Scott’s father was a first generation Crip gang member. He grew up learning about vengeance and how to dodge bullets from drive-bys at home and at school.
“My father was one of the first group of guys which now, you know, America is infested with Bloods and Crips,” Scott said. “Watching my dad was part of it, you know, seeing his type of lifestyle. But he soon left out of the picture because he was in and out of jail.”
At 12, Scott was initiated into a gang known as the Pirus.
“Just like normal; it's time to get jumped into the gang, you know, officially it's time to get jumped in,” he said. “We call it getting courted on, and what they would do that for is to see if you would run, if you had any toughness in you.”
He blames his father's absence for his bitter anger that caused him to rebel as early as the fourth grade.
Sgt. Will Huddler, who supervises the gang squad for the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department, says the lack of a father figure seems to be a recurring theme in boys that are initiated into gangs.
Huddler also says social media have changed the scene.
“When we had a problem with someone in school, we would go home and it would be over,” Huddler said. “As long as our mom and dad said you're not allowed to get on the phone. We couldn't talk about it, we would have to wait till the next day to go to school to hear about any new developments.”
That's not the case anymore.
“The time it takes a molehill into a mountain when it comes to beef, it's like nanoseconds,” Huddler said. “Where it was before, tomorrow I'll find out what's going on, those days are over.”
Lt. Chris Petko, who is part of Metro’s Gang Unit, says bloody turf wars are largely a thing of the past now that new hybrid gangs have emerged -- groups of gang-bangers that operate with a certain autonomy -- both in their identity and location.
“There isn't a standard territory establishment in gangs much anymore,” Petko said. “We have areas of towns that have predominance, or we have areas of towns that have historical backgrounds for a gang or a particular group of gangs.”
Petko says as Las Vegas has changed, demographics have changed and people have changed – the Internet’s electronic connection is a cyber-gateway – a portal -- so now gang members are seen all over the valley.
However, gangbangers stay hyper-connected with just the click of a mouse or the touch of a handheld device.