Officers from corrections, parole, probation and law enforcement gathered at the Correctional Management Institute of Texas (CMIT) at Sam Houston State University in July to get the latest information on violent gangs and other extremist groups operating in rural regions of Texas.
The event, the Texas Violent Gang Task Force Rural Training Initiative, was sponsored by the Texas Violence Gang Task Force (TVGTF) and co-sponsored by CMIT, the Texas Attorney General’s Office, and the Texas Gang Investigators Association. More than 200 attended the all-day session.
Special Agent Travis Gates of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) provided an overview of the most criminally active gangs operating in East Texas, providing profiles on gang leadership and activities in different areas of the state.
Nick Vaughn, Investigator for the Office of Inspector General and member of the Joint Terrorism Task Force for the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, discussed the recruitment of offenders in the state’s prisons and jails by members of terrorist or extremist organizations. Vaughn helped familiarize participants with the radicalization process and indicators they could use to identify potential members both behind bars and in the community.
In an effort to provide better information on gangs and extremist groups, Assistant Attorney General Sharon N. Pruitt of the Juvenile Crime Intervention Unit addressed statutes governing “gang databases” and the criteria for inclusion. To be legally included on a database, gang members must meet at least two standards, including self-admission on the Internet; identification by a reliable or corroborated informant; the use of gang dress, hand signals, tattoos or symbols; prison visits or frequent visits to gang areas; internet recruitment; or arrested or detained with gang members on a gang-related offense.
The training also explored violence and the Southwest Border. Special Agent Johnnie Green of ATF looked at one of the latest tactics being employed by the Mexican cartels against rival cartels and the government: the use of Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs). The presentation discussed the use of vehicle-borne IEDs and their firing systems and the types of weapons, explosives and munitions being seized in the Mexico and the United States.
Created in statute by the Texas legislature in 1999, the mission of the Texas Violent Gang Task Force is to form strategic partnerships among local, state and federal criminal justice, juvenile justice, and correctional agencies in order to take a proactive approach toward tracking gang activities and to promote networking for the collection and dissemination of gang intelligence among criminal justice agencies.