Mayor Paul D. Fraim


1. Briefly describe the structure of your program.

Youth gangs were first noticed and documented in the City of Norfolk in 1987. Over the following three years the gang situation continued to persist with a noticeable trend in local teens emulating west coast gangs. In 1990, Norfolk demonstrated a progressive and proactive posture by forming and funding a youth gang unit which continues today within the Norfolk Police Department. Additional financial support in the form of training funds has been supplied by Norfolk Public Schools, Norfolk Redevelopment and Housing Authority and the Norfolk Sheriff’s Department.

During the formation of the Norfolk Police Department Gang Squad, a task force of community leaders was formed to prepare a Gang Prevention and Intervention Plan. The Gang Task Force was comprised of representatives from the Police Department, the Department of Human Services, the Juvenile Services Bureau, the Department of Parks and Recreation, the Commonwealth Attorney's Office, the City Attorney's Office, the Norfolk Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court, Norfolk Public Schools, the Norfolk Community Services Board, the South Side Boys Club, the Girls Club, the Urban League, the Chamber of Commerce, and Norfolk Redevelopment and Housing Authority. The plan developed by the task force served as the Gang Squad’s strategic guide during its development.

The Gang Squad is youth oriented and focused on a dual mission. One mission, addressed through education and other proactive strategies is the prevention of gang activity. The second mission is the interdiction of gang activity accomplished through the adoption of a zero tolerance approach towards youthful offenders and strict guidelines surrounding the prosecution of criminal acts committed by gangs and gang members.

Specifically, the Norfolk Police Department Gang Squad handles investigations involving mob assaults, criminal activity on school grounds or offenses occurring to a student in route to and from school, any crime where a known gang member is involved, and incidents where a gang indicator, such as gang colors, gang hand signs, gang graffiti, certain tattoos, etc., are involved.

Since its inception, the Norfolk Police Gang Squad has worked closely with the city's Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court, the Commonwealth Attorney, the Norfolk Redevelopment and Housing Authority, Norfolk Sheriff's Department, and in particular Norfolk Public Schools. While all of these liaisons are important, it is the alliance with the schools which plays the most critical role in Norfolk's gang prevention effort. This relationship is key to not only the preventive and intervention strategies employed by both entities, but also the intelligence gathering and investigative strategies relied upon as well.

Nearly every Norfolk neighborhood has had some brush with the gang problem or has had to deal with a group of youths on the fringes of such designation, and as in all localities, Norfolk's schools are a reflection of its neighborhoods. Neighborhood problems can easily become school problems. This is particularly true in that nearly every gang member attends the public school system, and rival gangs must often share the same hallways, classrooms and playgrounds. Not only does the potential for gang violence exist, but so too does the gangs' recruitment potential. As such, the need for vigilance and a cooperative working relationship is unquestioned.

The Gang Squad's outreach efforts involve the regular interaction with community groups through presentations and workshops with civic and business gatherings, religious groups, youth organizations and school PTA meetings. Through these information exchange opportunities, community members have learned about the dangers of gang activity, and unit members have gained a community perspective on their work.

The squad's work and success at keeping a rather pervasive problem at bay in the City of Norfolk have gain them the reputation of being the East Coast experts in the area of gang activity and gang prevention. The absence of major gang problems is a testament to the effort's effectiveness.

2. Contact person:

Melvin High, Chief of Police

100 Brooke Avenue

Norfolk, Virginia 23501

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The United States Conference of Mayors

J. Thomas Cochran, Executive Director
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