Northern Utah Police Track Racist Parolees

Northern Utah Police Track Racist Parolees

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ROY, Utah (AP) Residents along an older street in this otherwise quiet northern Utah community know their neighbors in the apartment complex nearby are bad news. Most don't know why.

A 67-year-old man had a rock thrown through his window and his garage banged in. A 19-year-old woman several houses down routinely calls her mother from her cell phone on the way home from work so her mom can keep an eye on her as she drives up and walks into the house.

Police know the area has become a gathering point for a growing number of ex-inmates released from Utah prisons and jails who share white supremacist ideologies and a tendency toward violence and drug crimes.

"I don't know if I'm being picked on or what," said Lou Dorshorn, the 22-year resident who had a rock thrown through his window. "But I've had an awful lot of damage done here. You wonder what kind of mentality these people have."

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. Most of their crimes aren't motivated by race, police say, and are usually property and drug offenses.

The multi-agency Ogden-Weber Metro Gang Unit began tracking youth gangs in the late 1990s. Law enforcement agencies recognized that gangs develop early, often beginning in alternative schools that draw kids from around the county.

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 of the "recruits" know little about white supremacist ideology.

"They plaster themselves with the swastikas and letters and you confront them about their ideology and they stumble," said Kirk Egan, an intelligence manager at the Utah Department of Correction. "They don't take time to learn. 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 than commit a hate crime, but police say their presence is alarming.

"A group that thinks they are inherently better than another culture concerns us," said Roy police chief Greg Whinham. "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."

Roy, about 30 miles north of Salt Lake City, is dominated by the strip malls and condominiums multiplying in northern Utah. Yet some of the older streets and residences have become home to these parolees.

Many ex-inmates return to the communities from which they came, but Whinham believes Weber County has a disproportionate share. He says there are more parolees of all types for every parole agent, which makes it easier for parolees to get lost in the system. Parolees know that, he said.

He says the area has about forty percent of the state's parolees, but only ten or twelve percent of the parole agents.

Whinham knows of at least 15 parolees in his area connected with white supremacy, but there may be significantly more.

"It seems like we've always had a few of them. But then in 1999, within a three block radius we had 12. 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."

Past cases of white supremacists heading back to jail have resulted in brief reductions in property crimes, Whinham said. But property crime increases usually mirror population rises, he said.

Two recent cases involving white supremacy in northern Utah drew particular attention:

--In September, authorities discovered a pair of Logan parents had tattooed a swastika on the back of their 8-month-old child's head. Division of Child and Family Services officials said it was shocking to tattoo a child but that the case did not amount to child abuse.

--A man was sentenced in January to five years to life in prison for murder, plus 15 years to life for aggravated kidnapping when he smashed an 83-pound rock on a man's head in remote Salt Lake County. The 19-year-old had apparently been trying to join the prison gang Silent Aryan Warriors.

Homicides associated with white gangs are rare in the area, police say. More typical are check fraud, vandalism, theft and drug sales.

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 one thing is clear -- the groups provide protection and an identity to frightened first-timers in prison. The associations continue after release.

Weber County has between 500 and 600 parolees living in the county at any one time, Whinham said, and about 100 of those are affiliated with a white separatist or supremacist 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.

"I think they hate white people who don't believe in their cause more than they hate minorities," Egan said. "If you aren't with them, you're against them."

Whatever ideology parolees carry with them from prison, they don't appear to be actively spreading it in Roy.

"They are here, but they aren't recruiting," Whinham said. "We aren't getting complaints from their neighbors that they're trying to recruit our kids."

(Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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