Reporter's Note: To understand the gang issue in LaGrange and Troup County, I felt it necessary to go straight to the source. Who better to educate me, and you, about gangs and “the life” then a member? This story is excerpts of a conversation I had with “Trevor,” a gang member from LaGrange. He agreed to talk to me under the condition I didn't use his real name or identify which gang he is a part of, for fear of retribution against him and his family. This is part one on my series on gangs; who they are, the issues surrounding them, and the steps being taken by law enforcement to identify them, plus educate and protect the public from the violence that surrounds these groups. While it may seem like a cut and dry situation, it can quickly become a complicated one for law enforcement and gang members alike. For Trevor, joining a gang was like a rite of passage growing up on the streets of LaGrange. “I was watching to see what group everyone was going with,” he explained. “One of my friends was incarcerated and he was telling us about [the life] from jail. It sounded right. It sounded like the young black man's way of life.” Tall tales of “leadership roles” on the streets of LaGrange, new and better opportunities, and of course, promises of money were dangled in front of Trevor and his friends like golden carrots. As Trevor described it, being a part of a gang afforded him and his friends certain “rights,” playing by rules only they were privy to. Trevor said the gang's recruiters said all the right things …. music to the ears of young men and women who mainly grow up on the streets with little to no money or hope their circumstances will ever change. “The way they [gang recruiters] say it, 'this is to better yourself,'” Trevor explained. “But it's also for protection … if you weren't part of a gang, they'd get in your face …. steal from you or fight you. You had to be a part of something if you were in the streets.” With grandiose dreams and a feeling of empowerment over their lives and their neighborhood, Trevor said it didn't take long for other young men to decide the “gang life” was for them. “It was like a domino effect … like an epidemic,” said Trevor. “He'd [friend] recruit one and then another. Next thing you know you got this sect …. and this sect.” At least six different gangs roam various streets in LaGrange and in Troup County, according to Investigator Ray Ham with the LaGrange Police Department's Special Investigation Unit's Gang Taskforce. Sects of nationally known gangs like the Bloods, Crips, Gangsta' Disciples, call our community home, as well as other more “homegrown” groups that form out of certain city neighborhoods. “It was like they were family,” Trevor explained.” But you had to look at the business aspect of the gang before family. If you don't have business, you can't take care of the family.” According to Ham and Trevor, the main family business of choice for gangs is drugs and crime. “Drug sales and drugs across the gamut,” said Ham. “Pills, crack cocaine, Molly, methamphetamine …. every type of drug. It's all about the money.” The more money you bring in, the more loyal you are and the more you increase your status, and the status of your gang in the community. Trevor said his gang actually pays financial dues, around $ 50 dollars per month, like a typical after school club or organization. Except this way of life is anything but “typical.” While Trevor would never admit to being a part of his gang's street business, he did confess to being a leader within the hierarchy of his gang. He also admits to be being present during crimes committed by other gang members, called “foot soldiers.” Trevor said he even had enough power to call the shots within his gang. “I've seen people get robbed in broad daylight,” said Trevor. “I've seen shoot outs, people get beat up …. I've seen it all. But I collected the dues. I would send messages out telling people where to meet. I was like the enforcer…. I don't take mess. I might “spaz” out on you at church or in front of your woman …. you could make one phone call and have 10 people show up to beat someone up over 50 cents .… you call the shots. It's that sense of power that attracted me.” “But they don't tell you about the fighting,” he added. Fighting, it turns out, is a big part of gang life. According to Trevor, for some groups, it's one of the ways you are initiated into the gang, also known as getting “jumped in. “Fighting is also the way you solve issues within the sect or against rival gang members. It's bloody, violent, and according to Trevor, shows no mercy to whomever is on the receiving end of that beating. “Sometimes they'll [other gang members] will green light everything …. it means even if you see someone in their sect, not necessarily the person you're mad at, then you beat them up,” explained Trevor. ” It could be the lowest member …. like 13 years old. They play like there's rules, but there's no rules.” Except when it comes to involving outsiders in their criminal activity. According to Ham and Sgt. Mark Cavender, also with the LaGrange Police Department's Special Investigation Unit, even gangs have an honor code when committing criminal activity on the streets of LaGrange. “Those not in sets or cliques are not going to be brought into it,” said Cavender. “We have yet to have an act of violence from a gang member to a non gang member.” So how prevalent is gang activity in LaGrange and Troup County? In Part 2, we'll look at the statistics, tell you where the most gang related crimes are being committed, and what's being done about it. We'll also go inside the Troup County Jail, where gangs are still active and how they're trying to prevent it. The Gangs of LaGrange and Troup County Part 2 will be in Monday's edition of the LaGrange Daily News.