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FBI Probes Military Gangs
Chicago Tribune  |  May 03, 2006
The FBI has assigned an agent to monitor any connections between U.S. Soldiers and a Chicago-based gang alliance, federal agents said.

Of particular concern are reports that the Folk Nation, consisting of more than a dozen gangs in the Chicago area, is placing young members in the military in an effort to gather information about weapons and tactics, said FBI Special Agent Andrea Simmons, who is based in El Paso, Texas.

"Our understanding is that they find members without a criminal history so that they can join, and once they get out, they will have a new set of skills that they can apply to criminal enterprises," Simmons said. "This could be a concern for any law enforcement agency that has to deal with gangs on a daily basis."

Chicago gang symbols can be found amid other graffiti, mostly in latrines on U.S. military bases such as Camp Fallujah in Iraq's Anbar Province.

Yet military investigators say the Soldiers who left those symbols had no gang affiliation and little knowledge of how gangs operate.

"In nearly every one of the cases that we have looked into, it is a young man or woman who thought that the symbol looked cool," said Christopher Grey, spokesman for the Army's Criminal Investigation Command. "We have found some people even get gang tattoos not really knowing what they are, or at least that they have not had any gang affiliation the past."

Still, Army investigators have opened 10 cases in the last year in which evidence of gang activity was found, he said.

Some of those cases have since been closed, but no further details were released by the military.

"We're looking at a million-plus people in the Army," he said. "Any suggestion that this is rampant, we just don't see that."

Grey acknowledged that there are gang members in the military, but he said their presence has not become a problem.

The FBI, however, has two agents looking into gang affiliations in Texas in anticipation of a major realignment of military bases that is about to shift as many as 20,000 Soldiers to Ft. Bliss near El Paso, Simmons said.

One of those agents has been assigned to look at affiliations with Folk Nation, she said.

Police departments around Ft. Hood, near Austin, about 600 miles away, have reported some gang-related incidents, and the FBI will monitor whether there is an increase in such crimes near Ft. Bliss over the next two years, Simmons said.

A number of Soldiers transferred to Ft. Bliss are expected to come from Ft. Hood, Simmons said.

Military recruiters are trained to spot gang tattoos and affiliated clothing, said Maj. Nathan Banks, stationed at the Pentagon.

Membership in a gang does not automatically exclude individuals from the military, he said.

"There are people who want to become Soldiers because they want something better," he said. "That's a fact, and people do join gangs, but they also leave that behind in some instances to serve."

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