Office of Statewide Prosecution

Report of the Statewide Grand Jury

Gangs & Gang-Related Activity; Recommendations to Assist Law Enforcement
January 15, 1992
IN THE SUPREME COURT OF THE STATE OF FLORIDA -- CASE NUMBER 78,035
Interim Report #2
INTERIM REPORT OF THE TENTH STATEWIDE GRAND JURY
(This document has been re-formatted for the Internet)

I. INTRODUCTION

The State of Florida has experienced a disturbing increase in crime over the last decade. One of the factors contributing to the growth of the crime rate is the emergence of "gangs."

In order to determine the current impact of gang behavior on crime in Florida, the Tenth Statewide Grand Jury has, with the assistance of law enforcement, conducted in a statewide study on gangs and their activities.

The purpose of this study was to quantify the number of gang members in different areas, identify specific crimes involving gangs, and determine the manner in which law enforcement maintains this information. Much of the information utilized in this report was obtained from a variety of law enforcement agencies throughout the State in response to a survey prepared by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.

The Tenth Statewide Grand Jury also heard testimony from former gang members and law enforcement agents, and subsequently issued a 35-count indictment charging violations of the Street Terrorism and Enforcement Act, both of which will be described later.

The Statewide Grand Jury intends to continue investigating gang-related crime which occurs in or affects more than one judicial circuit. However, after reviewing the evidence concerning the efforts of law enforcement to confront the gang problem, the Statewide Grand Jury has concluded that certain legislative decisions must be made in order to enable law enforcement to effectively meet the challenge presented.

II. STREET TERRORISM ENFORCEMENT AND PREVENTION ACT

The Street Terrorism Enforcement and Prevention Act was enacted in October 1990 in response to a growing gang problem in the State. The statute was generated by requests from local police and criminal justice representatives. Florida Statute 874.02 explains the legislative findings and intent a follows:

1. The legislature finds that it is the right of every person, regardless of race, color, creed, religion, national origin, sex, age, sexual orientation, or handicap, to be secure and protected from fear, intimidation and physical harm caused by the activities of violent groups and individuals. It is not the intent of this chapter t interfere with the exercise of the constitutionally protected rights of the freedom of expression and association. The Legislature recognizes the constitutional right of every citizen to harbor and express beliefs on any lawful subject whatsoever, to lawfully associate with others who share similar beliefs, to petition lawfully constituted authority for a redress of perceived grievances, and to participate in the electoral process.

2. The Legislature finds, however, that the state is facing a mounting crisis caused by youth and street gangs whose members threaten and terrorize peaceful citizens and commit a multitude of crimes. These activities, both individually and collectively present a clear and present danger to public order and safety and are not constitutionally protected.

3. It is the intent of the Legislature to eradicate the terror created by youth and street gangs by providing enhanced penalties and by eliminating the patterns, profits, proceeds, and instrumentalities of youth and street gang activity.

874.03 Definitions - As used in this chapter:

1. "Youth and street gang" means a formal or informal ongoing organization, association or group of three or more persons who;

a. Have a common name or common identifying signs, colors, or symbols;

b. Have members of associates who, individually or collectively engage in or have engaged in a pattern of youth and street gang activity.

2. "Youth and street gang member" is a person who engages in a pattern of youth and street gang activity and meets two or more of the following criteria:

a. Admits to gang membership.

b. Is a youth under the age of 21 years who is identified as a gang member by a parent or guardian.

c. Is identified as a gang member by a documented reliable informant.

d. Resides in or frequents a particular gang's area and adopts their style of dress, their use of hand signs or their tattoos, and associates with known gang members.

e. Is identified as a gang member by an informant of previously untested reliability and such identification is corroborated by independent information.

f. Has been arrested more than once in the company of identified gang members for offenses which are consistent with usual gang activity.

g. Is identified as a gang member by physical evidence such as photographs or other documentation.

h. Has been stopped in the company of known gang members four or more times.

3. "Pattern of youth and street gang activity" means the commission, attempted commission, or solicitation, by any member or members of a youth and street gang, of two or more felony or violent misdemeanor offenses on separate occasions within a 3-year period, for the purpose of furthering gang activity.

This statute defines a gang under Florida law and gives specific criteria for labeling a person a gang member.

Florida Statute 874.04 reclassified penalties for the commission of a crime involving a pattern of youth and street gang activity by increasing the crime classification by one degree.

Also included in the Street Terrorism Enforcement and Prevention Act are civil penalties under Section 874.06, Florida Statutes, and property forfeiture provisions under Section 874.08, Florida Statutes.

A crime data information base was originally established under Section 874.09, Florida Statutes. The Legislature appropriated $88,000 for this purpose. However, due to lack of funding, this section was repealed.

III. INDICTMENT

On November 15, 1991, this body, the Tenth Statewide Grand Jury of Florida, indicted the core members of a Miami-based street gang, whose activities have affected many other counties in the State. (See Attachment 1.) The Florida Department of Law Enforcement, Miami Police Department, Florida Division of Alcoholic Beverage and Tobacco, and the Federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms completed the first investigation in the State in which gang members were charged with the State's Racketeering Influenced and Corrupt Organization Act (RICO), Chapter 895, Florida Statutes, and the Street Terrorism Enforcement and Prevention Act, Chapter 874, Florida Statutes.

The charges resulted from undercover purchases of cocaine by members of ATF and ABT, as well as a historical investigation of gang-related activities conducted by the Miami Police Department and Florida Department of Law Enforcement. The Statewide Grand Jury heard testimony from gang members and police officers which resulted in a 35-count indictment charging 11 members of the gang with RICO, trafficking in narcotics, arson, armed robbery,

burglary, auto theft, and conspiracy. Because the Indictment incorporates the Street Terrorism Act, the defendants face enhanced penalties, up to life in prison.

The investigation was initiated when members of the Miami Police Department Gang Unit and Florida Department of Law Enforcement identified the "Thirty-Fourth Street Players" as a viable target through the agencies' participation in the Dade County Multi-Agency Task Force (MAGTF). It was determined that these gang members traveled from Miami through at least six other counties including Sumter, St. Johns, Volusia, Orange, and Broward to commit these crimes. The "Thirty-Fourth Street Players" also transported drugs to locations as distant as Chicago, South Carolina, and Washington, D.C. There are more than 130 documented "Thirty-Fourth Street Players" in Miami. The Indictment focused on the leaders of the gang. The name "Thirty-Fourth Street Players" is derived from a street in the neighborhood where most of the "players" live. They are considered a "turf" gang, one of a few such gangs in Florida. A turf gang is a gang whose membership is based on a specific geographic location in which the gang members and their families reside or work. This gang primarily stays in the Wynwood area of Miami.

IV. PRIOR GRAND JURY STUDIES AND RESULTS

The State Attorney of the Eleventh Judicial Circuit, the Honorable Janet Reno, conducted the first official study of the gang problem in Dade County. In May 1985, the Dade County Grand Jury released a report analyzing the existent gangs with respect to their nature, numbers, and activities. The report revealed that there were approximately 36 known gangs in Dade County.

In 1988, the Dade County Grand Jury prepared an updated report on the gang problem. At that time, more than 70 gangs existed in Dade County with over 3,500 members. This represents an approximate 95 percent increase from the report three years earlier.

The 1988 report detailed gang structure and the increase in gang organization in Dade County. Local gangs were being influenced and organized by established gangs from such cities as Chicago, where there is a long history of organized, structured, gang activity.

As a result of the Dade Grand Jury Reports, a multi-agency task force was created to centralize gang related information into one uniform computer system in Dade County. This task force became a permanent entity known as the Dade County Multi-Agency Gang Task Force (MAGTF) which incorporates the talents and resources of over 27 local, state, and federal agencies to combat gang-related activity. The Dade County MAGTF, which has been in existence for approximately three years, also provides law enforcement coverage of major events, exchanges intelligence, and routinely works joint enforcement ventures. The MAGTF intelligence "Clearinghouse" is operated by the Metro-Dade Juvenile Investigation Division, using the Gang Reporting Evaluation and Tracking (GREAT) software developed by the Los Angeles Sheriff's Department to specifically keep track of gangs, gang members/associates, and gang-related activity. The work of MAGTF was essential in the investigation and prosecution of the current Statewide Grand Jury Indictment. Other areas in the State are in the process of forming similar task forces.

A Supervisor Advisory Committee discusses resource requirements for upcoming MAGTF covered events, policy, the Clearinghouse, legislative requests and any issue which impacts on police agencies related to gangs.

The work of the State Attorney and law enforcement officials in the Dade County area is to be commended. This Grand Jury will attempt to expand on those efforts with the hope that the entire State will benefit.

V. STATEWIDE GRAND JURY STUDY

The Tenth Statewide Grand Jury began hearing testimony and viewing evidence regarding Florida's gang problems in August 1991. The objective of this interim report is to identify the magnitude of the gang problem in the State of Florida and determine how law enforcement is reacting to it in terms of documentation and intelligence gathering techniques.

Based on recent assessments by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, there are in excess of 10,000 documented gang members or associates and over 159 identified gangs in the State of Florida. It appears that large metropolitan or populated areas are threatened by recruitment of gang members and gang-related crime, while many rural areas of the State have not been significantly affected.

Some of the gangs are strictly "graffiti gangs" and their activities generally consist of criminal mischief, vandalism to property, or painting buildings or vehicles. However, the majority of gangs in Florida have also committed crimes as serious as "drive-by" shootings. "Drive-by" shootings are intentional acts of violence, usually directed at rival gang members. National law enforcement statistics reveal that approximately 50% of these incidents result in death or injury to innocent bystanders. Many of the gangs in Florida are social in nature and not necessarily "turf" oriented.

Gang members are usually males. The age range is generally 12 to 21 years. Initiation rituals include challenges to commit crimes or severe beatings by fellow gang members. The groups adopt names and Wear "colors." "Colors" are clothes of one particular color that gang members wear to identify themselves as belonging to a specific gang and to distinguish themselves from rival gangs. Hand signals, street language, jewelry, and hair styles are adopted by each group.

For purposes of this report, Florida will be divided into five regions: the South Florida Region, the Central Florida Region, the West Florida Region, the Northeast Florida Region, and the Northwest Florida Region. This report contains a representative sample of the statistics obtained from each region.

A. SOUTH FLORIDA REGION:

1. Dade County:

Ninety gangs have been identified in Dade County, while only 62 are considered active. MAGTF, which uses the GREAT computer system, has documented approximately 4,000 persons as gang members and estimates that there are actually in excess of 5, 000 gang member/associates in Dade County. The MAGTF has attributed the following crimes to gangs:

Homicides Burglaries

Drive-by shootings Weapons Violations (Possession)

Arson Criminal Mischief (Graffiti)

Auto Theft

Drug Trafficking Trespassing/school grounds Robberies/Persons Robberies/Home invasion

2. Monroe County:

Monroe detectives estimate that there are approximately 100 members/associates in the three documented gangs. The unit currently uses a commercial software computer program to keep track of the members.

3. Broward County:

The Broward County Sheriff's Office has identified 30 gangs, with 10 being currently active, and approximately 3,000 members/associates. Burglary and aggravated assault are the leading crimes involving gang members. Documented gang members from Chicago and New York have been identified in the area. The Sheriff's Office maintains these statistics with a commercial computer software program.

Hollywood Police advise that in that city alone they have documented five gangs, consisting of approximately 100 members. A Los Angeles based "Crip" gang member is believed to be recruiting members in the area. The Department has no computer data base available.

The Fort Lauderdale Police Department has identified 15 gangs consisting of approximately 300 members/associates. They advise that aggravated assault, burglary, and auto theft are the primary gang-related offenses. They currently use the Mobile Automated Gang Information Computer (MAGIC) system which is also used by the Davie Police Department and several other Broward law enforcement agencies. Fort Lauderdale Police advise that they are in the process of changing to a commercial computer software program.

4. Palm Beach County:

The Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office does not have a computer data base available. The Sheriff's Office has documented 33 gangs in Palm Beach County, with 10 being active. Currently less than 100 active members have been identified. Drive-by shootings, burglaries, strong-arm robberies, and vandalism are the main crimes attributed to gang members/associates.

The Boca Raton and Delray Beach Police Departments are using the GREAT program to account for gang activity and have identified 36 gangs with 347 members/associates. Drive-by shootings and robberies constitute the majority of the gang activity.

B. NORTHEAST FLORIDA REGION:

1. Duval County:

There are 40 documented gangs in the Duval County area. Jacksonville gangs are committing the following crimes: burglary, robbery, drive-by shootings, narcotics violations, weapons violations, auto thefts, and other frauds. some violence seems to result from conflicts over turf, females, and race. The Jacksonville Sheriff's Office utilizes a computer data base developed in-house to maintain records on gang-related activity.

2. Clay County:

The Clay County Sheriff's Office has identified seven loosely knit gangs that are interacting with Duval groups. The approximate number of gang members/associates is 20. Clay County has also identified one small female gang. Clay County does not have a computerized data base. The crimes attributed to gang activity in Clay County include aggravated assaults, drive-by shootings, robberies, extortions, batteries, burglaries, and auto thefts.

3. St. Johns County:

According to the St. Johns Sheriff's Office, there are no documented gangs in the area. Gangs from Duval County have traveled into St. Johns County, and drive-by shootings over females and drugs are suspected.

4. Baker County:

According to the Baker County Sheriff's Office, there is no known gang activity.

5. Marion County:

According to the Marion County Sheriff's Office, there is no known gang activity.

6. Gilchrist County:

According to the Gilchrist County Sheriff's Office, there is no known gang activity.

7. Union County:

According to the Union County Sheriff's Office, there is no known gang activity.

8. Putnam County:

According to the Putnam County Sheriff's Office, there is no known gang activity. However, loosely knit groups are beginning to emerge and drive-by shootings have occurred.

9. Bradford County:

According to the Bradford County Sheriff's Office, no gangs have been positively identified in Bradford County. However, one or two loosely knit groups are attempting to control drug trafficking in the county.

10. Levy County:

According to the Williston Police Department, one group of loosely knit high school students, six to twelve in all, appears. to be involved in gang activity. Most of the activity participated in by this group is graffiti and provoking anti-police sentiment.

11. Nassau County:

There are approximately four known gangs in Nassau County with a total membership of approximately 50-75 members/associates. Although no statistics have been gathered, gang-related activity is suspected to include the following crimes: narcotics/"crack" sales, auto theft, extortion, hate crimes, concealed weapons, dealing in stolen property, criminal mischief, possession of burglary tools, trespassing, and throwing deadly missiles.

C. CENTRAL FLORIDA REGION:

1. Orange County

The Orange County Sheriff's Office has identified over 50 gangs with total membership of over 1,000. Gang-related activity has been confirmed to include: drive-by shootings, auto thefts, robberies, aggravated assaults, aggravated batteries, burglaries, and narcotics violations.

The Orange County Sheriffs Of f ice uses a commercial software program that was developed in-house. The Central Florida Street Gang Intelligence Unit was created in November of 1989. Members include the Orange County Sheriffs Office, FDLE, ATF, school resource officers, corrections officers, probation and parole officers and representatives from police and sheriffs agencies in the surrounding area. The unit meets once a month to exchange information regarding gangs and gang-related activity.

2. Seminole County

The Seminole County Sheriff's Office has identified some gang activity in the high schools although an exact number of gangs or gang membership could not be determined. Burglaries, narcotics violations, and auto thefts are the most common gang-related 13 criminal activity. The Seminole County Sheriff's Office utilizes the computer system belonging to the Orange County Sheriffs Office.

3. Lake County

The Lake County Sheriff's office has identified five gangs consisting of approximately 100 members. The most frequently reported gang-related crimes are robberies, burglaries, narcotic offenses, and hate crimes. The Lake County Sheriff's Department does not have a gang-related computer program at this time.

4. Volusia County

The Volusia County Sheriff's Department has identified approximately five gangs consisting of 60 members. The types of crimes that have been identified as gang-related are burglaries, aggravated batteries, aggravated assaults, narcotics violations and auto thefts. The Volusia County Sheriff's Office developed an in-house computer program using commercial software.

5. Brevard County

The Brevard County Sheriff's Office has identified six gangs consisting of approximately 50 members. The types of crimes reported as gang-related are aggravated batteries, home invasion robberies, narcotics violations, and extortions. The Brevard County Sheriff's Office has developed an in-house data base.

D. NORTHWEST FLORIDA REGION:

1. Escambia County:

Escambia County reported that there are four to five gangs in the area. These gangs are based on geographic area generally defined by high school location. The most frequent crimes are burglaries, about twenty per month. The Escambia County Sheriff's office utilizes a data base developed in-house that records youth gang activity from police reports which have an area of information for names and addresses of youth gang members.

2. Leon County

Reports no youth gang activity.

3. Okaloosa County:

Reports no youth gang activity.

4. Walton County:

Reports no youth gang activity.

5. Bay County:

Reports no youth gang activity.

6. Jackson County:

Reports no youth gang activity.

7. Columbia County:

Reports no youth gang activity.

8. Hamilton County:

Reports no youth gang activity.

9. Suwannee County:

Reports no youth gang activity.

10. Madison County:

Reports no youth gang activity.

11. Lafayette County:

Reports no youth gang activity.

12. Dixie County:

Reports no youth gang activity.

E. WEST FLORIDA REGION:

The Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office has documented 30 gangs in their area at this time. Tampa has attributed murders, robberies, burglaries, auto thefts, drive-by shootings, and drug trafficking to gang-related activity. Pinellas, DeSoto, Hardy, Charlotte, and Highland Counties have experienced some gang activity developing in the schools. None of these law enforcement agencies have a computerized gang data base.

VI. ISSUES

Currently, no central repository exists for the collection and exchange of information concerning gangs and gang activity. All the law enforcement personnel tackling the gang problem in the five regions complained that a data base did not exist to enable quick access to and retrieval of statewide gang information. These investigators, though not agreeing on the software to be used, do agree that documentation and communication are essential tools for combating the increasing gang problem in Florida.

The Street Terrorism Enforcement and Prevention Act of 1990 originally funded a statewide data base through the Florida Department of Law Enforcement; however, due to the State's growing financial problems, the funding portion of the bill was deleted creating a void in any statewide data collection. Since then the 16 collection and maintenance of intelligence data has been completed on a local level and based solely on the resources of the law enforcement agency involved.

MAGTF copied the Los Angeles Sheriff's Office Gang Reporting Enforcement and Tracking (GREAT) computer program. Other locations around the State have either purchased commercial software programs or specifically written programs in-house which may not be compatible with those used by other agencies or may deviate from the criteria listed under the Youth and Street Gang Enforcement and Prevention Act of 1990. A centralized data base would assist in the uniform collection and exchange of vital information and avoid the inconsistent application of the law.

Keeping an accurate statewide record of gang-related activity and gang members/associates is a difficult endeavor. Lack of specific training in the identification and reporting of gangs and their activities is part of the problem. More importantly, the law enforcement agencies have had to fend for themselves in the development of record keeping procedures and data retrieval methods. Their efforts have been the result of necessity; born when the need arises rather than in advance of the problem. Most of the agencies contacted were unable to provide the exact number of crimes that were directly related to gang activity, nor to effectively track gang migration. Modern law enforcement agencies are expected to achieve higher standards of accountability, and strive to do so within the limits of their resources. The State of Florida must provide them with the tools necessary to perform as professionals.

VII. RECOMMENDATIONS:

Based upon our study, it is evident that a statewide youth and street gang computer data base needs to be established with mandatory reporting from all law enforcement agencies in the State of Florida. The data base could be administered by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement due to its experience operating the State's criminal history data base (FCIC) through the Florida Intelligence Center (FIC) . The mandatory reporting of gang information would require active participation by all law enforcement agencies and the entry of accurate information into the system. The mandatory reporting would also facilitate accurate accounting of gang members and uniform enforcement of the Florida Street Terrorism Enforcement and Prevention Act. The utilization of such a data base would require that all police report forms within the State have an information block where the initial officer or the investigating officer indicates whether the crime was gang related, whether a gang member was involved, and to identify offenders as gang members. Such a requirement would necessitate mandatory instruction at all law enforcement academies in the State of Florida to educate the officers on gang related activity and membership identification. Another suggestion would be to update gang information through in-service training by local law enforcement agencies on a regular basis.

VIII. CONCLUSION:

It is the opinion of the Tenth Statewide Grand Jury that the only way to successfully document gang activity is through a statewide data base with mandatory reporting. one of the standard information blocks in police reports statewide should require the officer to indicate whether a crime was gang related, and finally, basic police academies would include instruction on identification of gangs and gang-related activity.

The State of Florida is at a crucial point in addressing the impact of gang-related activity on its law-abiding citizens. Information is the key to understanding. The expenditure of funds in this manner is an investment in our future. We strongly urge the law makers of this State to consider the adoption of these recommendations.

Respectfully submitted to the Honorable Frederick T. Pfeiffer, Presiding Judge, this day of January, 1992.

___________________________________
Herman A. Robandt
Foreperson
Tenth Statewide Grand Jury
Of Florida

___________________________________
MELANIE ANN HINES
Statewide Prosecutor
Statewide Grand Jury
Legal Advisor

_____________________________
CYNTHIA GELMINE IMPERATO
Assistant Statewide Prosecutor
Assistant Statewide Grant Jury
Legal Advisor

Received in Open Court by the Honorable Frederick T. Pfeiffer this Day of January, 1992.


_______________________________
Frederick T. Pfeiffer
Presiding Judge
Tenth Statewide Grand Jury