September 2, 1995 in Nation/World

Clash Creates Turf War In Post Falls Park Parents Fear Infiltration By Gangs, But Kids Say They’re Just Hanging Out

By The Spokesman-Review

A handful of idle youths has the Pine Villa neighborhood adults fearing that gang “wannabes” have infiltrated their shady streets and are influencing their children.

The discovery of gang insignia carved in the sod of the neighborhood’s central park has only fueled those fears.

“They’ve got some young toughs out there who think they’ve got the world by the tail,” said Capt. Ben Wolfinger of the Kootenai County Sheriff’s Department.

Kids usually gather at the south end of the park, near the intersection of Evergreen and Twig streets. The numbers have increased in recent weeks, and neighbors have reported smoking, drinking and knife throwing.

“We’ve noticed an increase in the number of juveniles in the park who don’t reside in the neighborhood,” said Cliff Hayes, a neighborhood resident and Post Falls police chief. Pine Villa is outside the city limits.

Hayes, like several other parents in the area, no longer allows his children to go to the park unsupervised.

“It’s like you’re a prisoner in your own home,” said one mother.

Wolfinger said officers have identified a couple of potential drug dealers who may be working the area.

Two nights ago, a group of youths lit a small fire of Campbell Soup can labels, which brought out the Post Falls fire engines.

But the most disturbing event, said one parent, occurred Thursday night when the residents tried to hold a meeting in the park.

That’s when they discovered the gang symbol. Then, as they discussed the situation, they found themselves in a confrontation with two teenagers - a young girl and her friend, 14-year-old Ryan Delaney. Heated words were exchanged. Delaney and at least one parent tell different versions of what happened, but accusations centered around the teens’ behavior and use of the park. Then, more youths arrived.

“We could hear chanting coming from down the street,” said the parent, who wouldn’t give her name, fearing retaliation from the youths.

“They were locked arm in arm, marching down the street to save this girl. It’s a nightmare from hell.”

Sprawling near the patch of ripped up sod Friday afternoon, Delaney and three friends laughed at the description.

“They were going, ‘Lions and tigers and bears, Oh my!”’ said Delaney, who wears John Lennon sunglasses and an oversized T-shirt.

He and his friends claimed they are getting a bad rap.

Delaney, Jared Stroh, 15, and Tim McDonald, 14, said they like to hang out in the park and kick around their Sipa bags, but they have no desires to join a gang.

“This is like the designated spot,” Stroh said. “There’s no where else to go.”

The three boys said older teenagers do come to visit once in a while who are gang “wannabes.”

“Just ‘cause we’re friends doesn’t mean we’re involved with what they do,” McDonald said.

“I don’t believe in that gangster” stuff.

Sheriff’s deputies have explained to the youths that if they hang around with gang “wannabes” and dress like them, they’ll get treated like them.

“We don’t cut them any slack,” Wolfinger said. “Nobody wants gangs to flourish in their neighborhood.”

The residents have armed themselves with information on what to report - gang colors, license plate numbers of strange cars, and other signs - in their attempt to keep gangs from getting a foothold in the neighborhood.

At night they plan to turn on the park sprinklers to keep kids from gathering there after hours.

And next Friday, the neighborhood is planning a picnic in the park to raise awareness and reclaim their park for more wholesome activities.

“I was going to do a potluck, but then I thought some of these people might want to poison us,” the concerned mother said Friday while organizing distribution of fliers advertising the picnic.

Just then, a gold Chevelle swooped by. As it passed, a young man with a shaved head and wrap-around sunglasses hung out his window and cussed at them.

The woman called out the license plate number to her neighbor so they could report him for swearing in the presence of a minor.

“We want to let these kids know we’re not going to put up with it,” she said.

, DataTimes

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