SPECIAL ASSIGNMENT: Gangs of eastern Iowa Pt. 1 - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

SPECIAL ASSIGNMENT: Gangs of eastern Iowa Pt. 1

by John Wilmer

WATERLOO (KWWL) - Shootings, robberies, home invasions these types of stories are making headline across eastern Iowa. Now many people are asking whose behind these violent acts.

One area police department says many of these crimes can be traced back to gangs and gang violence.

Police across eastern Iowa have had their run-ins with gangs. In Dubuque, the gangs known as the Vice Lords and Gangster Disciples are most prominent as well as members of the Arian Nation. In Cedar Rapids, police have also had contact with the Vice Lords and Gangster Disciples as well as the Latino gang MS-13. In Waterloo there are around 10 active gangs including Bloods, Crips, Vice Lords, Gangster disciples and even some home grown gangs.

Officials with the Waterloo Police Department say involvement in gangs is not a race issue, a gernder issue, or even a cultural issue. It comes down to economics. They say when times get tough more people join gangs to sell drugs and make money.

Waterloo Police have had their hands full these past couple of months, dealing with everything from shootings to liquor store robberies.

Sergeant Keith Rogers, an investigator with the Waterloo Police Department deals with gangs and gang members on a daily basis.

"Most of our problems that occurred this last summer in Waterloo can be traced back to being gang related," Rogers said.

The gangs that are here in Waterloo have come from bigger cities. The Almighty Vice Lord Nation and the Gangster Disciples come from Chicago. Bloods and Crips are from Los Angeles, but some were created right here in Waterloo like Southside and L-block.

"In Waterloo our more active gangs are the Vice Lords and a group called Southside which is a blood set," Rogers said.

To track what gangs are in their community, the Waterloo Police Department photographs the graffiti. These gang signs can be found on everything from doorways to a student's notebook.

Community activist Leon Mosley has seen the gang violence evolve in Waterloo over time.

"They don't plan for five years down the road they live just for right now... Right now... Living for right now," Mosley said.

Mosely says the most shocking thing about the recent violence is the age of those involved. Children are getting involved at younger ages.  

"You get caught up in that situation where I'm going to be the Waterloo gangster of the year, that kind of stuff and they take pride in that,"Mosley said.

The gangs in Waterloo know no bounds. There are black, white, Hispanic, Bosnian and even female gangs. Police say the problem in Waterloo is no worse than any other community in the country its size.

Online Reporter: John Wilmer

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