Gang activity in Lane County

Gang activity in Lane County
DOWNTOWN EUGENE - Graffiti, tattoos, and baggy clothing used to give clues of who could be in a gang but these days, police say, that's not always the case. That's why it's hard to tell just how many gang members there are in Lane County but law officials do believe its a critical amount.

Captain Chuck Tilby with the Eugene Police Department says, "The criminal activity is more organized. The structure is more organized. What comes along with that is more violence."

Plus Tuesday's court hearing of 24-year old Michael Vaughan who is facing a gang-related murder charge has prompted concern in the community.

We asked some folks in downtown Eugene what they've seen. "I've seen people packing guns. I've seen people packing knives. I've seen a lot of fights," says one young man.

Another woman tells us, "There's always graffiti but it has nothing to do with gangs. It's just the taggers."

While law enforcement does its part, groups like "Victory Outreach" in Springfield work to help gang members leave violence behind and also raise awareness about the reality of a local threat. Pastor Frank Loya with Victory Outreach says, "We need to get more educated about what's hip hop and what's gang paraphanalia."

Case in point: the cover of Eugene's current Recreation Guide which shows three teenage girls making a peace sign. This pose prompted many to call the city with concerns they were gang symbols. Sarah Medary, the Recreation Services Director says, "We've run it by our gang specialists in the police department and it's not a gang sign. It's a sign that is associated with hip hop."

The EPD does say gang activity here tends to be focused rather than random but warn just because you're not a target doesn't mean you won't feel the effects of gang activity.

The EPD also tells us gangs here focus more on drugs, theft, and prostitution rather than violence.