WASHINGTON COUNTY, Md. - The four-state region may seem quaint and quiet, even complete with mountain views but local authorities have responded and handled incidents tied to gang related activity.
It's a problem that has no boundaries, and local law enforcement agents see the four-state region as a target for gangs to take up residence.
"There are certain gang groups from the west coast who are very much interested in becoming more active on the east coast. The Hagerstown, four-state region has been identified as one of those areas that they would like to get their hooves into, so to speak," said Washington County Sheriff Doug Mullendore.
Gangs like the infamous Bloods and Crips, who law enforcement say have taken up shop here.
The Bloods formed in Los Angeles in the 70's and now have a presence in all 23 counties in Maryland.
The Crips formed in East L.A. in the late 60's and now have a presence in the majority of Maryland, including Washington and Frederick counties.
Gang analyst for the Frederick Police Department, Rob Marker, said graffiti is "the newspaper of the street" for gangs but it's not the only thing that law enforcement uses as an indicator of gang activity.
"There's a totality of things we'll look at; does the individual wear a certain style or certain color, do they have tattoos, do they continually associate with known gang members, do they get arrested with known gang members and on down the line," said Rob Marker.
And Sheriff Mullendore said these gangs might like this area because of the easy access.
"Because of the interstate they're able to travel back and forth really quickly, so they will do activities in other areas and then come back to our area," said Mullendore.
Another big reason for gang activity here in the four-state area is the proximity to State Correctional Facilities. Law enforcement officials said many gang members have been incarcerated and then relocate to this area.
The sheriff's office isn't alone working on anti-gang initiatives. They've partnered with the Hagerstown City Police, the Washington County Narcotics Task Force and the Washington County Gang Task Force.
They've also joined "MARGIN" or the Mid Atlantic Regional Gang Investigators Network, an organization made up of law enforcement officers from the D.C. and Maryland areas.
"Once they saw the need to start sharing information, it wasn't just limited to those areas, and they saw a need that gang information and intelligence should be shared across the states," said Marker.
And Marker said gang activity isn't something that's just confined to the Four State area.
"I think it's the norm of the country," he said.
With a group effort, these officers hope they can leave their mark in the area: that gangs won't be tolerated.
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