Updated: Wednesday, 20 Oct 2010, 8:18 PM EDT
Published : Tuesday, 19 Oct 2010, 6:40 AM EDT
VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) - More than 500 law enforcement officers from all along the east coast converged at the Wyndam Hotel & Resort in Virginia Beach for a three day gang awareness and training conference.
Additional speakers will include: Virginia Secretary of Public Safety Marla Graff Decker, John Buckovich, Deputy Secretary of Public Safety, John Hackman, United States Marshals Service, and Virginia Beach Sheriff and Ken Stolle.
Experts said awareness of gang signs, symbols, and slogans, is key to recognizing what's going on in your community.
"If you see what you believe to be graffiti - gang graffiti - on your wall or on your fence, don't just take it down. Call law enforcement. They need to come document it, they need to look at it," said Marla Decker, Virginia Public Safety Secretary.
Conference organizers said it's important that school age kids are educated about gangs.
"They're starting to dabble in it. They're starting to be curious about what are these gang symbols and signs, and I want to be part of that. We can break that cycle once they make that transition to middle school. I think we're getting ourselves way ahead of the game," said Gene Ballance, VGIA Vice President
On Wednesday, a presentation was given about gangs and their relations to terrorists. Recenty, officials said there have been signs terrorists and gang members are working together.
"We do know that there have been allegiances in the past, and we do know that many of our Americanized street gangs have been known to affiliate with terrorist organizations," said Security Threat Group expert Hunter Glass.
Glass said the gunman who opened fire on four police officers in Washington state last year is just one recent example.
"This is radical Islam we're talking about - an extreme version of Islam," said Glass, "That subject was in prison, converted to radical Islam and directly wanted to attack law enforcement."
Glass explained that gang members gravitate to a variety of extremist views.
"Terrorism just isn't always religiously motivated, we've also got narcoterrorism," said Glass.
Narcoterrorism is where street gangs have connections to known drug cartels in other countries. But in the U.S. and in Hampton Roads, gang activity can produce terror in any neighborhood.
"That elderly person can't outside. Basically the crack head in the neighborhood is her Osama Bin Ladin," said Glass, "She doesn't have to be worried about aircraft crashing into her. That's a form of domestic terrorism."
In addition to gangs and terrorism, those attending the conference will receive training in the many other areas of gang crimes including: Border Violence, Outlaw Motorcycle Gangs, Juggalo's, School Shooters, International Gangs, Hispanic Gangs, Hybrid Gangs, East Coast Gangs, Midwest Gangs, Female Gangs, and Gangs in Virginia.
The conference will end Friday, October 22 at noon.
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