Gangs Making Smaller Cities Home

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Duham, North Carolina, is a thriving city - with a growing gang problem.

Deputy Keith Dodson of the Durham Sheriff's Office says, "There's Hispanic or Latin gangs, black gangs, white gangs. Gangs know no color but one -green - making money,"

Gangs who once called the streets of Los Angeles and New York City home are now stretching beyond their big city bases, notes CBS News Correspondent Sharyn Alfonsi, as they find it harder and harder to operate in those big cities.

They're bringing their gang-style violence to places such as Tulsa, Denver and the affluent suburbs of Washington DC and New Jersey.

"It's kinda like water. They are going to follow the path of least resistance, and go where they feel they can operate under the radar," says Mark Bridgeman of the North Carolina Gang Investigators Association.

Investigators say that after 9/11, some financially strapped cities were forced to redirect anti-gang resources to anti-terrorism efforts. Gangs moved in - pushing drugs, prostitution and homicide numbers to their highest levels in a decade, Alfonsi points out.

For all of last year, Durham had a total of 18 murders. This year, it's already at 22.

"It we don't pay attention and realize it's an issue, it's going to grow and expand," warns Deputy Elliott Hoskins of the Durham Sheriff's Office.

In Durham, city officials increased their anti-gang unit from seven officers to 20, appointing a pair of gang investigators to decode the secret world of gangs.

Gang Investigator Hoskins says gangs often operate like businesses, with their own rules of conduct, dress code, and communication. Investigators easily break gang codes, but getting kids to break from the gang, is far more complicated and difficult, despite the violence associated with gangs.

With murders stacking up, Alfonsi says, police are now engaged in their own turf war of sorts, trying to stop rapidly growing cities from becoming the next casualty of gang violence.