HPD: Threats Of Activity Not Confirmed, But Officials Urge Caution
Posted: November 12, 2012
By JEREMY HUNT
HARRISONBURG — Unsubstantiated claims are being circulated about gang initiations taking place in Harrisonburg, and police are using the rumors as an opportunity to urge people to be safe and aware of their surroundings.
In the past several days, information has been circulating via social media and other electronic communication about supposed gang initiations, including initiation procedures and crimes, according to the Harrisonburg Police Department.
Most gangs engage in some type of initiation for new members, often involving violence.
Last December, for example, a 12-year-old at J. Frank Hilliard Middle School was charged with leading a “beat-in,” in which members physically assault new recruits, at the school.
The activity mentioned in recent messages has not been confirmed, and officers recommend no one forward those messages, according to HPD.
However, the CHARGE Gang Task Force — which is made up of investigators from HPD and the Rockingham County Sheriff’s Office — is aware of gangs operating in the city, including at apartment complexes that serve as off-campus housing for many James Madison University students.
Gang activity in Harrisonburg — and specifically at off-campus student housing — is nothing new.
Four years ago, Staunton resident Reginald “Shay” Nicholson, 19, was killed as he left a party at the Hunters Ridge complex off Port Republic Road, marking the city’s first gang-related murder. Nicholson was not involved with gangs, but the four men who were convicted of his murder were at the time.
Police say residents can help keep themselves safe by being aware of their surroundings, traveling in groups and reporting suspicious people and activity. Keeping doors and windows locked, keeping track of personal belongings and only allowing friends at parties are other common sense ways to lower one’s risk of being targeted by criminals.