A Northland Native Mob Problem

By KBJR News 1

November 8, 2012 Updated Nov 8, 2012 at 11:39 PM CDT

Vineland, MN (NNCNOW.com)
-- The US Attorney's office is hoping to bring the hammer down on a gang problem in the Northland.

Spokespeople in the Twin-Cities say they are looking at assisting with the arrest, and prosecution of Native Mob members on the Fond du Lac Reservation.

The escalating presence of the Native Mob at Fond du Lac and in Duluth is a growing problem.

In Vineland, Minnesota on the Mille Lacs Indian Reservation, the Native Mob has kept a city in fear for a decade.

Their presence in Vineland can be seen on houses, streets and even in children's playgrounds.

"They intimidate the community. They are committing all these crimes that are destroying the community. The community doesn't think it's safe anymore."

Investigator for the Mille Lacs Tribal Police Russ Jude deals with gang problems daily in the small community of just over a thousand.

Since 2010, gangs have committed a proven 130 crimes and authorities say that's probably a conservative number.

"There's a whole realm of things that are making it just not safe in the community to think they can't live here, and can't grow up here," said Jude.

The offenses are violent.

The Native Mob specializes in drive by shootings, arson, violent assaults, and the occasional murder.

"There's a magnitude of crimes that are attached to the Native Mob for certain reason whether it's benefiting the gang, which could be anything from just proving to the high ranking members that they want to be part of the gang."

But the mob's dangerous reach isn't limited to just Mille Lacs.

The Attorney's General office has published Native Mob membership numbers in Minnesota at around 200.

The Minnesota Department of Corrections says in 2012, 132 offenders were associated with the Native Mob Security Threat Group.

They are primarily on, but not limited to Leech Lake, Red Lake, and Mille Lacs Indian Reservations, as well as in cities like Minneapolis and most recently, Duluth.

And their presence in the Northland has recently grown to dangerous levels.

"They're involved in drug dealing. What comes with that is the violence we're seeing as well," said Cloquet Police Chief Wade Lamirande.

Violence that includes the recent murder of 25-year-old Cristyna Watson.

Court documents say her accused murders are part of the Native Mob.

One of them, only 17 years old, Authorities say the Native Mob recruits children as young as 12.

"These are kids that are bringing home gang colors at home or they're going to have markings on their backpacks or on their notebooks," said Lamirande in Cloquet.

Many of the Native American Reservations across the state of Minnesota are dealing with the Native Mob but there are a few where it's not an issue.

The Bois Forte Community credits the lack of a gang problem to a proactive approach with children.

"We do the G.R.E.A.T. program which is gang, resistance, education and training to our elementary kids we do the D.A.R.E. program with the kids," said Bois Forte Police Chief Peter Drift.

But even with anti-drug and violence programs all over the state, the Native Mob keeps moving north, making their mark.

Police and Tribal authorities do say there is optimism with federal help available, and that no community will fall without a fight.

People living on Fond du Lac are taking a citizens united approach to curbing the gang problem, organizing marches and meeting to discuss proactive solutions.

Zach Vavricka

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