Gangs infiltrate northeast Pennsylvania resort region

| 29 Sep 2011 | 09:13

    NORTHEASTERN PA - When New Yorkers and Philadelphians want to get away from the noise and crowds, they often come to the Pocono Mountains. A bucolic, tourist-friendly place of forests and streams and lakes, it would appear to be a place where a Crip or a Blood would seem ... out of place. Yet, jarringly, they are here: gang members from New York City and its suburbs who authorities say have quietly taken up residence in some of the private, gated communities of the Poconos, where they can stake out new drug turf with little interference from municipal or state police. “We’re trying to stop the problem before it becomes overwhelming,” said state police Maj. Joseph T. Marut, whose command includes much of the Poconos. While the crime rate is still relatively low and gang violence has flared only sporadically, gang members have already made their presence felt in ways that frustrate and frighten the law-abiding majority. The owners of a Pike County riding stable say they were attacked by Crips last August in a dispute over a parking space at a local deli. The victims were an elderly couple and their adult daughter. The daughter, who spoke on condition of anonymity because she fears another attack, said she suffered a fractured jaw and numerous lacerations, her father’s cheek was split open, and her mother was roughed up. “People who moved from New York and New Jersey into the gated communities, some of the youngsters decided they were going to get together and try to imitate the gangs,” said Marut, the state police commander. “From there, it kind of mushroomed, with outside people coming in from New York City who were actual gang members trying to organize people.” Some residents say that however menacing the young thugs who roam the neighborhood may be, they are not inducted gang members. “They’re a bunch of people who got bullied in New York and they are trying to come here and make a name for themselves,” said Robert Ryales, 16, a former Jersey City, N.J., resident. In addition, police say that many image-conscious homeowners associations are anxious to keep the problem out of the public eye. “The biggest problem we have is denial and ignorance,” said Pocono Mountain Regional Police Officer Eric Uhler, a gang specialist. “Private communities don’t want the word out that there are gangs because it scares prospective buyers away.” Law enforcement officials insist that gangs are a growing menace - especially in private communities, of which there are dozens in the Poconos. “You have a lot of denial: ‘Oh, not here, they’re wannabes,”’ said Pike County Sheriff Philip Bueki. “That’s not the way to go about it.”