Gangs still prevalent in Utah with members as young as 5, police say

Salt Lake Deputy Police Chief Issac Atencio also noted that he sees problems with families who move to Salt Lake from another country and the parents don’t speak any English and don’t understand what their children are doing.

When Unified police detective Esekia “Skee” Afatasi gave his presentation on youth gangs at the Utah Gang Conference a few years ago, he was seeing documented gang members as young as 7 years old.

At the 2014 Utah Gang Conference that started Wednesday at the South Towne Expo Center, Afatasi had lowered that age to 5.

The change came when Afatasi was called to check out gang graffiti at an elementary school in West Valley City. What he found was that a 5-year-old — a kindergartner — had “tagged the whole school.”

Afatasi was one of dozens of speakers at the annual convention that aims to educate law enforcers as well as community leaders, teachers and parents about how to help solve the gang problem.

“I think that’s the key is we just have to continue to educate. It’s 2014 and we started the gang unit back in the early ’90s and people are still saying, ‘Oh, we have a gang problem?’ We just have to continue to educate, educate, educate,” said Unified Police Lt. Marianne Suarez, head of the Metro Gang Unit.

Gang violence received extra attention earlier this week after Siale Angilau, 25, was shot and killed by a U.S. marshal after Angilau rushed the witness stand at his own trial to attack a former member of the Tongan Crip Gang. Angilau was also a TCG member.


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