The Winston-Salem Police Department’s gang unit was named Gang Unit of the Year by the NC Gang Investigators Association during a ceremony held last month in Durham. Sgt. MD Weaver of the Winston-Salem Police Department characterized the honor as “a clear indicator to not only the police department but to the Winston-Salem community that we’re making obvious progress in addressing the gang issue.”
Weaver said there are currently 34 documented gangs in Winston-Salem with about 700 gang members. There is a gang presence in the Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools at both the middle school and high school levels, he added.
“The gang problem is recognized, monitored and addressed accordingly through suppression, intervention and prevention techniques,” Weaver said.
Last year, the gang unit handled 520 calls for service and made 1,000 arrests, including 84 felonies, 684 criminal misdemeanors, and 126 traffic infractions/misdemeanors, according to a press release. The gang unit accepted 39 cases referred to it for follow-up investigations and provided 569 hours of support to the department’s field services and investigative services bureaus.
The gang unit is comprised of Weaver, a corporal and eight sworn officers. One of the gang unit’s officers is cross sworn with the FBI and serves on the Safe Streets Crime Task Force. Officers assigned to the gang unit have received gang awareness training and work daily to develop their knowledge and skills in gang detection and suppression through training and field experience, Weaver said.
The Winston-Salem City Council created the gang unit in 2006. Weaver said members of the city council — and Mayor Pro Tem Vivian Burke in particular — should be lauded for their vision in acknowledging the gang problem in the city and taking decisive action to address the problem.
— Keith T. Barber