BROOME COUNTY, N.Y. -- As jurors in Broome County Court deal with a murder trial with possible gang ties, the Broome County Sheriff's office says gang violence continues to grow in the Southern Tier.
"We've seen, in recent years, major long-term investigation focused on organized groups of criminal activity," said Captain Fred Akshar of the Broome County Sheriff's office.
The problem, police say, stems from a bigger issue that's plagued the community for years.
"Gang activity, I think, revolves around the distribution of narcotics. In this particular, we have a drug distribution problem," Akshar said.
Akshar says four major gangs are prevalent in Broome County: The Bloods, the Crips, the Latin Kings and the Aryan Brotherhood. In an effort to curb further gang violence, police are stepping up their work in the field.
"Even the patrolmen, the deputies, in this county, have an opportunity now to ask certain questions of suspects or defendants in certain cases and try and glean some further information about ongoing criminal activity," Akshar said.
When gang members are arrested in the community, many of them are brought to the Broome County Correctional Facility, but there is a worry among law enforcement officials that their time there could create further problems once they're out.
"The correctional facilities or the state prisons are the areas where recruitment is the highest, that being the number one place," said Captain Kevin Moore of the Broome County Sheriff's Office.
While they may not be able to eliminate the problem of recruitment within the walls at the jail, officials enforce strict rules to help identify gang members.
"If they're in possession of gang paraphernalia, if they're showing gang signs, have gang literature, that's a violation of the rules and they can be written up for that," Moore said.
As the Sheriff's department continues to address the problem, it advises residents to be vigilant and report anything they suspect might be gang activity.