While last week’s fight at Greater Johnstown High School featured the trappings of the “gang mentality,” police and officials say they cannot conclude the students involved were actual gang members.

Furthermore, city police Chief Craig Foust has a warning for teens who adopt the symbols of organized criminal groups.

“Be careful,” Foust said.

“Because there are (gang members) out there.”

The Jan. 11 brawl caused a brief lockdown at the school and led to the suspension of four students.

Police said one of the male juveniles involved was known to wear a red bandanna – possibly representing the “Bloods” gang – while the other boy has worn a blue bandanna, symbolizing the “Crips.”

But Foust said police have no information proving the students are true members of either outfit, and said he is not aware of any gang infiltration in local schools.

Greater Johnstown schools Superintendent Barbara Parkins agrees.

“We hadn’t seen any signs of gang activity,” Parkins said.

“We don’t see indications in the building of gang symbols and hand gestures.”

National surveys have found that, while organized gangs still operate primarily in larger cities, the problem has seeped into less-populated areas.

Foust said his department has had some brushes with gangs.

“We have arrested certified gang members, Crips and Bloods, in Johnstown,” he said.

“Generally, they were older adults who had come in from out of the area.”

He added that officers constantly are monitoring the potential for that kind of criminal activity.

“We need to look at this, and we need to stay on top of it,” Foust said.

As for the students involved in last week’s incident, police have said they would charge three as juveniles.

The fourth student, 18-year-old Shakuwra Lawton, was charged as an adult and faces a March 1 preliminary hearing.

Parkins said school administrators must meet with the students’ parents before deciding whether to take any disciplinary action beyond a temporary suspension.

Expulsion would require approval of the school board, she said.

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