Police track white supremacist prison gangs
ReligionNewsBlog.com • Monday April 21, 2003
AP, Apr. 20, 2003
ROY, Utah (AP) — Along an older street in this blue-collar community, the residents know their neighbors in the apartment complex are bad news, though most don’t know why.
They’re aware of the vandalism — a rock thrown through a 67-year-old man’s window, a garage banged in. One teenager worries enough that she calls her mother as she drives home from work so someone can watch her as she walks from her car to the house.
It’s 40 miles from here to the nearest state prison, yet police say parolees and ex-inmates, many from white supremacist prison gangs, have been moving straight from prison into this Ogden suburb — and committing more crimes.
Forty percent of Utah parolees live in the area, 500 to 600 at any one time, Roy Police Chief Greg Whinham said. Of those, he said, about 100 are affiliated with a white supremacist or separatist groups.
“It seems like we’ve always had a few of them. But then in 1999, within a three block radius we had 12,” Whinham said. “As they started committing additional crimes, we saw that they were all connected.”
“It took over a year to get them on new charges and send them back to prison,” and in the meantime, more moved in.
Prisons nationwide are notorious breeding grounds for white supremacists, but the problem in northern Utah is so acute that nine agencies in Weber County and Ogden have linked to track racist parolees once they leave prison.
Last month, police in Ogden arrested nine people in a sweep following an investigation into vehicle theft and burglaries believed to be linked to a white supremacist ring; at least three of those arrested were parolees.
Ogden Police Lt. Marcy Korgenski said the department keeps a close eye on parolees for any violation that could send them back to prison or even a zoning violation that could break up their households.
“People have a right to live where they want to, but we’re making it less desirable for them to live here,” she said Saturday.
But the oversight of so many parolees isn’t easy.
The area has only 10 to 12 percent of the state’s parole officers, making it easier for parolees to slip under the radar, and the parolees know it, which may be one reason they head for Odgen and Roy, Whinham said.
White power groups do most of their recruiting in prisons and jails, where frightened inmates seek protection from other prison gangs. Tattoos of swastikas and gang symbols on their heads and bodies make them easily identifiable when they get out.
Most prison “recruits” actually know little about white supremacist ideology, said Kirk Egan, an intelligence manager at the Utah Department of Correction.
“They plaster themselves with the swastikas and letters and you confront them about their ideology and they stumble,” Egan said. “They aren’t in it for the ideology, they are trying to make their stay in prison as comfortable as possible.”
When they get out, the parolees are more likely to vandalize a car or get involved in drug sales than commit a hate crime, police say. Still, they are alarmed by the large presence of them in and around Roy.
“A group that thinks they are inherently better than another culture concerns us,” Whinham says. “When they show up, they are easily noticed. They frighten everybody by their appearance, but their criminal activity has not been targeting any particular group.”
While Utah officials don’t keep a complete list of known white supremacists, the state Department of Corrections has identified at least 300 members of white supremacist gangs. The system has about 5,600 total inmates spread across two state prisons and several county jails.
Egan and others say three groups rose to prominence within the state prison system in the late 1990s: Soldiers of the Aryan Culture, Silent Aryan Warriors and Fourth Reich. No one is quite sure why, but they know the associations continue after release.
Those in Roy don’t appear to be actively spreading the ideology, Whinham said.
But that’s not much comfort to neighbors like Lou Dorshorn, 67, who found a rock thrown through the window of the home he’s lived in for 22 years.
“I don’t know if I’m being picked on or what, but I’ve had an awful lot of damage done here,” he said. “You wonder what kind of mentality these people have.”
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