Bladen County is battling a gang problem. The efforts stem in part from the shooting of 19-year-old Jakhee Sledge outside of a McDonald’s last month; the case still remains unsolved. The bigger issue behind this murder is that it may be tied to gang activity. Gangs can affect people in any community, from any race, and any social background. The issue is beginning to plague Bladen County. Elizabethtown Police Chief Bobby Kinlaw said, "Three years ago we started seeing cases of it in the county. Over the past year, year-and-a-half, it has started growing at a pretty fast pace." Chief Kinlaw said the rate of gang activity in Bladen County is growing faster than anyone prepared for. He said throughout the county more and more violence, robberies and property damage can be tagged back to gangs in the area. "There is some indication that there are some turf battles between rival gangs within the county. Everything that we have seen as far as violent crimes have been isolated to rival gangs,” Kinlaw said. Kinlaw noted members of nationally known gangs have relocated to Bladen County from bigger cities and he's seen an increase in home grown gangs getting in on the action. People in the community say they've seen the impact as well. "You got the Bloods, you the Crips, you got the folks...it's a shame, it's sad and it's the young people," said Sabrina Walston of Elizabethtown. Frankie Newkirk shares the concern. "The community has to get together to solve this problem and figure out what's going to be the next step." The first step according to Chief Kinlaw is with the community. Education and prevention will help curtail the problem before it gets worse. Members of the board of education and local law enforcement will present a plan of action Monday night at a public meeting from 7:00 until 9:00 pm at the Elizabethtown Presbyterian Church on West Broad Street.
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