Gang activity does take place in Hernando County, but it is generally unstructured and hard to define, according to Hernando County Sheriff Al Nienhuis. Nienhuis made the comments during a press conference announcing the arrest of three juveniles and one adult in connection with the robbery of a Brooksville gun shop last month.
In that case, 23-year-old Devonte Smith, who is a member of the Piru Blood street gang and the founder of the Killin Bout Mine (KBM) street gang, and Juwarren Langley, 15, a documented member of the KBM gang, were arrested along with 17-year-old Evan Hampton and Breon Sanders, 15 and charged in connection with the theft of 35 firearms and various rounds of ammunition during the April break-in at the American Gun and Pawn, 1118 E. Jefferson St in Brooksville.
The arrests of two documented gang members shed light on the incidence of gang activity in Hernando County, Nienhuis said.
“Obviously, we have a couple of people who are documented gang members, and I think one thing that is very telling is that you have one adult and three juveniles which shows that this individual is trying to recruit these individuals into a life of crime,” Nienhuis said. “But how much gang activity is there in Hernando County? Well, gang activity is kinda hard to define.”
That’s because in Hernando County, gang “affiliations” are most likely to be loosely structured groups of people who commit crimes locally, Nienhuis said, “If you define gangs as like the Bloods and Crips in California, there is not a lot of activity that is that well defined and that well structured,” he said. “People getting together committing crimes, as in this case, happens fairly regularly – sometimes (members of those groups) give themselves names.”
Neither has highly defined gang leadership. “I would not say there is any kind of rank structure,” Nienhuis explained. “The oldest is sometimes the de facto leader.”
Hernando County Sheriff’s Office Public Relations Manager Denise Moloney said that data specific to gang activity is not routinely collected.
“We do not track information in a manner that would allow us to do so,” she said.
Even so, Nienhuis said that the county’s recent population boom might have an impact on future gang activity here.
“We do have people who have moved into this area that we know are documented gang members,” he said. “And they try to recruit.”
In the meantime, the HCSO is sending a message to gang members who are already here and wannabe members of existing gangs. “We obviously pay very close attention once we figure out that they’re here and who they are, and we try to send a very strong message that it won’t be tolerated, ” Nienhuis said. “Also, we want to send a message to young people that might be thinking about getting involved in something that they think is glamorous and realize that it’s glamorous for a few seconds, and then you have years of ‘not so glamorous’ to deal with.”