Paul Paudert, a retired chief of police from West Memphis, Ark., told a group of assembled North Carolina law enforcement officers that he considers gang members to be domestic terrorists.
“They represent organized crime, basically," Paudert said. "They are in all of our communities, and they threaten people. People are intimidated by them, and that's basically what the definition of a domestic terrorist is."
Paudert, a featured speaker at the North Carolina Gang Investigators Association conference in Pinehurst, lost his son, a Memphis police officer, to gang violence. “When my son arrived on the scene, within two minutes, this 16-year-old kid gets out with an AK-47 and guns down both officers, shoots my son 14 times and his partner 11 times and kills them,” Paudert said.
Since his retirement, Paudert spends his time at events like the one in Pinehurst, trying to keep other officers safe.
The 500 lawmen in attendance at the three-day conference also heard from experts on how gangs are using social media to recruit new members and how they are turning to human trafficking or prostitution as a means of getting cash.
“They’ll take a young lady, and they’ll sell her via prostitution, human trafficking, and they make on average about $160,000 off of one female in a year,” said Mark Bridgeman, president of the gang investigators association.
Bridgeman said gangs are overwhelming small North Carolina cities with small police forces that are not well-equipped to deal with violent gang members.
The information shared in Pinehurst helps not only those North Carolina communities but also cities and gang investigators elsewhere. "Gang members are in our prison system, they're in our school system, they're in our community, and people need to know about gangs to be safe," Bridgeman said.
Bridgeman, a Fayetteville police officer, said there are even gang members in the military learning military tactics they use on the streets when they get out of the service.
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