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Insane art: Have gang members left a mark in West Jefferson?

Originally published: Jan. 23, 2013
Last modified: Jan. 23, 2013

Adam Orr

Graffiti spray painted on the backside of the old West Jefferson Elementary School could be indicative of the Insane Gangster Disciples gang, a predominantly white gang with ties to North Carolina “Folk Nation” gangs, according to Asheville Police Department Sgt. Louis Tomasetti.  

The image, a six-sided star with the letters IGD and also includes three pronged pitchforks topped by a three-pointed crown, was found on the backside of the Ashe County Early Learning Center in West Jefferson sometime in late December. 

Tomasetti, a member of the North Carolina Gang Investigators Task Force, said the image is similar to graffiti he has seen across western North Carolina, done by members of so-called “Folk Nation” gangs. 

As a member of the North Carolina Gang Investigators Unit, Tomasetti has also performed graffiti analysis for the Waynesville Police Department and Cherokee Indian Police Department, and said, by far, the gangs he typically sees in WNC are Gangster Disciples or Folk Nation gangs, or Crips.

“Those are by far the most common in the white communities,” said Tomasetti, “with guys going into the prison system and then coming out and claiming some kind of gang affiliation. Its sort of cliche, but we look at prison as college for offenders, in many ways. Guys go to prison, learn while they’re in and work to perfect their criminal activity.” 

Tomasetti said the Folk Nation was a gang alliance that was formed in the Illinois Prison system by members of Chicago-based Gangster Disciples and dozens of other gangs, both in prison and on the street. 

“Folk nation was never really a gang, it was an alliance between gangs,” said Tomasetti. “When Chicago tore down some of their housing projects, some of the Chicago gang members made their way south to Memphis, Asheville, Birmingham and across the southeast.”

The Memphis Police Department began tracking members of the Black Gangster Disciples as far back as the mid-1980s, according to the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Memphis Division. 

“The Black Gangster Disciples have traditionally been a loosely organized gang involved primarily in burglaries, trafficking, and auto theft,” according to the FBI report. “Since the mid-1980s however, drug trafficking appears to have become the chief profit-making activity for the gang.” 

The MPD later established a “Youth Gang Task Force,” in the mid-1980s to address the criminal activities of street gangs, and found an increase of gang membership and activity primarily influenced by the Chicago based Gangster Disciples and Vice Lords. 

As the gangs spread, according to Tomasetti, the controls and relationships with Chicago-based gangs dissolved. 

“(The Chicago gangs) don’t really control the gangs here (in North Carolina),” said Tomasetti. “The adults that participate in these gangs either learn their stuff in the prison system or the Internet.” 

Many gang members in North and South Carolina believe “Folk Nation” to be a gang, including members of the Insane Gangster Disciples, according to Tomasetti. 

“IGD members are typically, in my experience, mostly white males,” said Tomasetti. “That Folk Nation alliance, when it did exist, accepted white members, like the all white Simon City Royals.” 

As to how gang graffiti winds up West Jefferson, Tomasetti gave a theory. 

“I would suspect that someone went to prison, either for a crime in Ashe County or they’re from Ashe County, and connected with someone with some knowledge of the Gangster Disciples while in prison,” said Tomasetti. “It could also be a younger family member of someone who went to prison, that latched on to the Insane Gangster Disciples that that family member brought out from prison with them.” 

For more information and stories, see Ashe Mountain Times.