ALBANY, Ga. -- Probably the worst thing a community can do is ignore its gang "wannabes," said a Detroit Police Department lieutenant.
"Wannabe" gang members eventually join gangs, said Lt. Harold Rochon at an Albany Police Department training seminar Wednesday.
"If you have one cancer cell, you have cancer. You don't need five," Rochon said. "If you see one or two people wearing the colors, giving gang signs, that is a gang. The longer a community does not address the problem, the more organized they will become. Like a cancer grows from one cell, the gangs will grow."
As part of the Albany Police Department's commitment to becoming an excellent law enforcement agency, Rochon spoke on ethics, leadership and supervision for the first day of his seminar Tuesday, APD officials said.
Rochon, who has investigated gangs since 1986, is also the executive director of the Target Group Inc., a nonprofit organization that provides training on criminal street gang investigation, identification, suppression, prevention and intervention.
Those topics took the greater part of Rochon's seminar schedule Wednesday through today.
Using videos of interviews with gang members to illustrate his points, Rochon said there was a development of boys to gang members in what he called "scavenger gangs."
"Scavenger gangs join together on impulse," Rochon said. "They don't have to have a name to be a gang. They have no common bond except their criminal behavior. Half the gangs in the country are scavenger gangs."
No matter what kind of gang it is, the members all have characteristics in common. Chief among the characteristics is the desire for recognition.
"They all want to be recognized. They become members by their willingness to do violence," Rochon said. "A reputation is what they want."
To defeat gangs, a community must go beyond relying on its police force to cure the cancer by arrest, Rochon said. It will take a concentrated effort of community leaders and residents to prevent gangs from spreading.
"Everyone must become involved. The police cannot arrest out of the situation," he said. "It will take educators, business people and everyone in the community for prevention, not just police suppression."
Police Lt. Tony Moore of the APD Gang Unit said that the sharing of information among officers in seminars adds to his fire to combat gangs.
"This isn't just an Albany problem, it is a national problem. The more we learn, the better we are," Moore said. "This helps us get charged up to do the job."