Take the word of the cops who know: Gangs are alive and thriving in Lorain County.
That’s the news that was delivered Friday at the first Hate Free Lorain County Conference sponsored by the Elyria YWCA.
Almost as soon as attendees breathed a sigh of relief at the declaration made by U.S. Attorney Greg White that hate crimes in Lorain County are almost unheard of, Larry Findish of the Lorain County Sheriff’s Office took to the stage and dealt the audience the raw deal about gang activity in the county.
Findish, who works full time as the intelligence officer with the Sheriff’s Office security threat group and street gang identification unit, said even he has been recruited by white supremacy groups who see him as a potential member of the Ku Klux Klan or Aryan Nation.
“These kids and adults are for real, and what they are doing is real,” he said.
After working for the last four years identifying, classifying and tracking gang activity in the county, Findish has been able to categorize more than 30 different gang sets.
Pockets of gang activity exist in some degree throughout the county, he said.
“Gangs may be keeping quiet but while under the radar are recruiting new members every day,” Findish said. “They’re everywhere.”
But you may not know it when you see it.
That’s because the gang affiliations that are well-known are not recognizable by most. Confusing, right?
Well, to clarify, Findish used an organization that everyone is familiar with to draw a comparison between gang nations that are well known, like the Crips and Bloods, and gang sets that fly under the radar, like the Latin Kings, Vice Lords and Dirty 30.
“A simple comparison might be the National and American baseball leagues,” he said. “The National League is not a team — it is the alliance under which teams like the L.A. Dodgers and Atlanta Braves are aligned. The American League is the alliance under which the Baltimore Orioles and New York Yankees are aligned.”
In Lorain County, gang sets are heavily influenced by Chicago and California gang nations. The Crips, Bloods, Folk and People gang nations all have sets in Lorain County, but they use names such as the Latin Disciples, Black Gangster Disciples and M.O.B.
Currently, their membership rolls total close to 600 people in this area, and it continues to grow each day, Findish said.
However, while many are criminal entities that don’t even like each other, let alone people outside the gangs, it’s the white supremacy groups that are heavy recruiters in the county, unleashing their hate propaganda mainly in the Lorain County Jail.
“At one time or another, members of every faction of the KKK, Aryan Nation or white supremacy group has been at the Lorain County Jail,” Findish said. “They leave their markings on our walls, leave propaganda pamphlets around the jail and wait to see what will happen, and even have been known to place little dolls with painted black faces and hanging nooses over the bars of their cells. This is done to let you know they are there.”
Through his dealings with inmates, Findish said he met a 33-year-old Avon Lake man who until his death in May was a key member of the Creativity Movement.
The Creativity Movement, formerly called Church of the Creator, is a U.S.-based white-supremacist organization that advocates a whites-only religion called Creativity.
The group recently saw its leader sentenced to prison for plotting to kill a federal judge, Findish said.
Criminal offenses committed locally brought the man to the Lorain County Jail, and while he was there, he recruited members to pass the time. Since his death, Findish said a 54-year-old Lorain man has been pegged to take over his position.
The Lorain County Jail has served as Findish’s training ground.
There, he said, he has interacted with enough gang members to let him know the county is not immune from the trend dramatized in movies.
“If you think it’s not true, you should know this: Ohio ranks fourth in the nation in the number of gang members and fifth in the number of gang-related crimes,” he said.
There are at least 714 criminal gangs in Ohio with more than 13,000 members, according to the state Attorney General’s Office.
Graffiti, he said, is often the telltale sign. Gang members “tag” to show their presence.
“To most members of society, graffiti is just vandalism and child pranks and means nothing more. But it is a clear marking of territorial boundaries and serves as a warning or challenge that the area is tagged by a gang,” he said. “It’s the newspaper of the streets.”
Contact Lisa Roberson at 653-6268 or firstname.lastname@example.org.