Statewide gang crime conference planned

By Jeff Linville -

DOBSON — A lieutenant in the Surry County Sheriff’s Office is helping organize a statewide police event this week.

The N.C. Gang Investigators Association is hosting its 17th-annual conference in Winston-Salem Tuesday to Thursday.

The organization is an association of law enforcement and criminal justice professionals who are dedicated to the prevention of gangs and suppression of gang-related activity within the state of North Carolina.

According to the association’s website, “Through enhanced inter-agency intelligence exchange, legislative activism, citizen awareness, innovative anti-gang operational tactics, and by providing professional education and training, we play a significant role in creating a safer environment for residents of and visitors to this state.”

Lt. Randy Shelton, the detention center commander, is an officer in the gang association and helped prepare the three-day event. Shelton, who impressed county commissioners in February during a discussion about county jail needs, is the the vice president of operations.

The president of the association is Mark Bridgeman, retired from the Fayetteville Police Department. The vice president of administration is Elliott Hoskins, retired from the Durham County Sheriff’s Office. The conference coordinator is John Rich, retired from ATF (Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms). That means Shelton is the highest-ranking member who is still active duty.

When people think of gangs, the image that comes to mind might be some Hollywood movie with the Bloods and Crips. Or perhaps some mob boss like “The Godfather.” However, law enforcement officials explain that smaller, less formal gangs are at work all over the country. A gang can be any group of criminals working together to be more successful.

“The most effective tool against gangs is cooperation: the efforts of all law enforcement agencies with the assistance, support and understanding of the citizens of our communities in North Carolina,” said Bridgeman, the association president.

Shelton said more than 500 people have registered for the event, which will be highlighted Wednesday by a speech from an assistant attorney general around noon.

The opening ceremony Tuesday morning will be open to the media, but the rest of the event is closed for law enforcement officers only, he said.

A big reason for this is secrecy, he explained, is that some of the guest speakers are undercover agents who are still active in the field. No one but cops can see these people, or their covers would be blown. That’s why some of the sessions on the agenda say “speaker TBA” (to be announced).

Shelton said he will be there for all three days. He said the Sheriff Jimmy Combs is planning to send down some of his staff, too, so there could be four or five Surry County officers attending the event at the Benton Convention Center.

The registration fee for the event is $250, but the association said that also includes a one-year membership to the association and a T-shirt — with a 10-percent discount given to groups with four or more attendees.

Lt. Shelton is one of the organizers

By Jeff Linville

Reach Jeff at 415-4692.

Reach Jeff at 415-4692.