PITT COUNTY - Greenville Police Chief Hassan Aden says gangs are responsible for a variety of crimes in Greenville, from homicide to robbery.
The latest numbers show there are 18 known gangs in Pitt County, and 148 known gang members in the county. In the Greenville Police Department, six detectives make up the gang unit.
Patrol Officer B. Groccia said he's seen gang members as young as age 12.
"What they do is they target the youth. So when you get young kids involved, they're gonna spread the word," Groccia said.
Chief Aden says violent crime dropped nearly 12% in Greenville from January 2012 to January 2013, with "significant reductions" in robberies, larcenies and burglaries. But he says the number of homicides rose from zero to two in that period.
Aden took the helm as chief in late November 2012 and was sworn-in Feb. 4. In early January, he launched beefed up patrols, targeting 50 violent offenders, many of whom, investigators said, had ties to gangs.
Aden told NewsChannel 12 Greenville Police arrested all 50 suspects.
They are still looking for at least one suspect in connection with the gang-related murder of Anthony "Breeze" Johnson, 36, in the West Pointe neighborhood on Jan. 2.
Police arrested Jahreel May, 16, who is charged with murder in Johnson's death. Police say May has ties to known gang members.
Aden said residents are providing police with crucial information needed to make arrests. He said he hopes to implement a new crime-fighting program in Greenville this summer. It would be similar to the High Point Model, a drug intervention program developed in High Point, NC.
Patrols continue in Greenville, but with less visibility. Aden says -- don't underestimate his department.
"I just want the public to know that what you might find is a Greenville police officer undercover," he said.