Clifton residents note rise in gang activity
Criminal 'cliques’ competing for same turf in area, sheriff’s deputy says
Since moving in June into their $800-a-month apartment just south of E Road on 32 Road, Jason and Lori repeatedly have been awakened late nights by gunshots, junkies yelling at their dealers and police chasing criminals.
“They are always chasing people through here,” Jason said.
“You got your meth heads and then you got your gangsters,” Lori said of the neighborhood.
“There’s a lot of robberies.”
The two declined to give their last names, citing possible retaliation.
The two say they are street-wise and can handle living in a neighborhood that one Mesa County sheriff’s deputy calls the most disputed turf in the county.
“This territory is probably the most disputed between two or three gang cliques,” Deputy Chad Williams said.
The signs are all over. Gang graffiti is spray-painted onto fences, utility poles, mailboxes and the sides of houses. Many of the signs have been painted over and crossed out by rivals.
Williams said he is starting to see an evolution in gang activity.
“I believe it to be more organized than it was a year ago,” he said.
An organization requires roots. A gang’s roots feed through a community’s youth.
“Kids are used up and spit out,” said Williams, a 36-year-old father of two. “They don’t see that when they are 13 or 14 years old.”
A lot of the graffiti around town is done by kids with no gang ties. What concerns Williams are the growing number of gang “cliques,” kids that claim an association, but have no solid connections with national-level gangs.
Besides graffiti these “cliques” are responsible for numerous crimes that include assault, strong-armed robberies, burglaries, vandalism, theft from cars and drug activity, Williams said.
The urban canvas that is the neighborhood in which the gang members live and terrorize others “is their billboard” for their graffiti.
Williams spends his time studying their markings. He walks the streets and talks to residents, shopkeepers and gang members trying to keep abreast of the latest happenings.
But to make a lasting difference, the community must effect change, he said.
“We want people to buy into their neighborhoods, even if they are just renting,” he said. “It is something we need to address.”
To report graffiti in Mesa County call 244-3953.
This story first appeared as a Mobile Junction item at GJSentinel.com on Thursday.