CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The gang activity believed to be rampant in Charleston isn’t isolated within the city limits.
Speaking on 58WCHS radio Wednesday, Chief Deputy Mike Rutherford of the Kanawha County Sheriff’s Department said it is a problem for law enforcement throughout the region.
“When Charleston cracks down, they start making arrests and (gang crimes) start popping up in their areas,” said Rutherford. “Then as we start making arrests, it goes back to the city.”
The recent charges that Detroit gang members put out a hit on Charleston Police Chief of Detectives Lt. Steve Cooper generated widespread attention in law enforcement.
“We have to be careful because it’s a different culture. We’re used to people who might get into a fight and somebody pull a gun or whatever,” said Rutherford. “This group of people has literally no respect for human life. They just want to get rid of their opponents and do what they want to do.”
Although other gangs have been influential in the drug trade in West Virginia, the criminal organization from Detroit appeared to have the strongest presence. Rutherford said that was a product of severe budget shortfall in Huntington several years ago, when the city laid off half of its police force. The gangs took advantage of the lessened enforcement and moved in.
“That got the foot in the door for the Detroit people,” said Rutherford. “The last four or five large drug busts we’ve done through the sheriff’s department have just about all been Detroit people.”