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COUNTYWIDE : Officers Get Tapes on County’s Gangs

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To improve training of law enforcement officers countywide, every police department and sheriff’s station has received a videotape series explaining how Latino and Asian gangs dress and operate.

The series also explains how to tell the difference between gang graffiti and similar but unrelated vandalism by “taggers.”

“It gives a real good understanding of O.C. gangs. It’s very hard hitting for officers in the street,” said Robert Smith, audio-visual specialist for the Sheriff’s Department.

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“Violence in Our Streets,” proposed by the Orange County Chiefs and Sheriffs Assn. and created by the sheriff’s training academy, consists of four videos ranging from eight to 17 minutes long. They provide important information for novice officers and officers who have not yet encountered gangs, such as what weapons and tactics gang members are likely to use, what kinds of tattoos they have and what kinds of clothes they wear, Smith said.

The series, which took one year to create, also includes interviews with gang members and seasoned street officers.

One video describes in detail the differences between the graffiti of gang members and that of taggers who leave their marks as much for recreation as for recognition. For example, the video shows that gang graffiti are likely to use block letters and English-type script and appear in plain colors, Smith said.

Gang members also prefer to spell out their affiliations, while taggers tend to use abbreviations, such as “SSK” for “Second Society Kings” or “LOA” for “Living on Aerosol.” Tagger “crews,” as groups of taggers are called, also favor large, colorful letters and often include drawn faces or figures, Smith said.

The release of the video series comes in the wake of an increase in incidents of graffiti countywide. In Santa Ana, for instance, the incidence of graffiti surged 73% in December from the previous month, Police Chief Paul M. Walters has said.

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