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Community Association

Gangs Of The Poconos
The Monroe County Gang Task Force has identified 95 gang members living in Monroe County as of August 2007. About 60 percent are from New York and 24 percent from New Jersey.
From the Pocono Record 12-03-2007
"You can't arrest people for hanging out and wearing the same colors. There is no law against being in a gang.
But gangs which are a reality in Monroe County, are involved in organized crime."
Check Out This Article: Pocono Record: Gangs in the Poconos Special Report

Largest gang in the country and in Monroe County.
Colors: Red and white or sometimes pink
Identifier: White bandana
Criminal focus: drugs and theft

Latin Kings
Second largest influence in the Poconos after the Bloods. Members are not just Latin American; they will recruit anyone.
Colors: Black and yellow or gold
Identifiers: Tattoo of 5-pointed crowns. They wear a lot of beads, sometimes rosary beads.
Criminal focus: drugs and theft

Colors: Blue
Identifiers: Sports gear from Los Angeles teams, Adidas sweatshirts, Dickey brand work pants or Converse sneakers. Crip members sometimes call each other "Cuzz."
Criminal focus: Drugs and theft

Puerto Rican gang. Considered a political group in Puerto Rico.
Colors: Red, white and blue or black
Often display Puerto Rican flag

Consider themselves the outcasts of society. Tend to be loners, yet they travel and fight groups.
Identifiers: Listen to the music of Insane Clown Posse. Might have Insane Clown Posse T-shirts and tattoos and drink Faygo soda.
Criminal focus: Dealing and doing drugs, mainly marijuana, vandalism and graffiti

Home-grown gangs
Nine home-grown gangs have been identified in Monroe County. These are groups who are not part of a "brand name" gang. Because they are small and less organized, they are more easily broken up.

Hate Groups
Aryan Nation and Ku Klux Klan members are in Monroe County. Larger numbers are found in Lancaster County and in central Pennsylvania, according to Emmanuel Varkanis of the Monroe County District Attorney's Office.
In response to a growing gang presence, the Monroe County Gang Task Force was created this year.
The task force is a joint effort between Monroe County adult and juvenile probation, Stroudsburg Area School District, Pocono Township, Barrett Township, Monroe County Correctional Facility, Pocono Mountain Regional Police, Stroud Area Regional Police, the East Stroudsburg University Police and the District Attorney's Office.
Information about gang members is shared with task force agencies.
Emmanuel Varkanis, a detective for the district attorney, tracks all gang information that comes into the task force.
"We have a family tree," he explained, that shows addresses, connections between people and other details.
One day perhaps, gangs may be illegal. State House Bill 326, which would define criminal gang activity and establish strict penalties, is stalled in Harrisburg.

Gangs are here
"New York City Police have been tracking gang members in our area for several years," Varkanis said.
Gang members have moved in where the rents are low. With about 1,000 foreclosures in Monroe this year, desperate homeowners are renting out cheap.
Gang members will rent a five-bedroom home and share it with 10 people, according to Bernard Ortiz, police officer for the Stroudsburg Area School District.
Another draw is the convenient location. Gangsters join commuters daily on Interstate 80 heading for Newark, N.J., bringing home cocaine, crack and heroin.
"Migration into Monroe County has affected schools, economy, but most importantly, crime," Varkanis said. "Gangs have found a plethora of opportunity, from its lack of social and economic opportunities to its rural and suburban setting."
But it is not all riffraff from out of town. Local kids join gangs, too.
"A lot of local kids want to attach themselves to these gangs," Varkanis said.
"A wannabe is a gonna be," Ortiz said. While some kids try on gang culture and grow out of it, wannabe gang members are often more dangerous because they need to prove themselves worthy. Initiation usually involves a crime, often theft or robbery.
Why do kids join gangs? "Poverty," Ortiz said.
Families buy homes and move here hoping for a better life, but find low-paying jobs when they arrive. Unable to make the mortgage, they commute to better jobs, leaving kids to fend for themselves. Parents leaving kids alone for a week at a time is alarmingly common in the Poconos. No parents, no school — truancy becomes a problem.
"Parents leave $100 and the oldest in charge. Pretty soon there is a party, rape, drugs," Ortiz said. "Kids have a wanting to feel affection. When there is none at home they turn to their friends." These are the kids gangs prey on.
Varkanis believes one solution is to, somehow, get more jobs in the area, so parents don't have to leave.

Gangs are different here
In New York, gangs have territories.
In the Poconos, conflicting gang members live next door. That creates tense neighborhoods in places such as A Pocono Country Place, where a mix of gang members live in close proximity.
Other hot spots for gangs include Saw Creek, Pocono Farms East and Penn Estates. Weapons, fights and drugs are part of the landscape.
Private communities, where municipal police don't patrol, plus bargain-priced housing is an invitation to lawlessness.
But the criminal element can be found everywhere, including drug dealers on Main Street in Stroudsburg, Varkanis said.
The Monroe County Drug Task Force advises business owners to protect themselves by providing lighting for property at night. Use surveillance cameras and share recordings with police. Report graffiti to police and remove it immediately.
If you suspect gang activity, report it to police. All information is being tracked by the gang task force.
Do not approach gang members or ask if they are in a gang; you could become a victim.