Central Pennsylvania doesn't seem to have a gang problem. At least not yet.
Pennsylvania gang expert Todd Negola said the area has a gang presence, not a problem, but gangs are like a social cancer and communities need to respond rather than react.
"Denial's a very comfy place when it come to gangs," said Negola, the Pennsylvania Gang Investigators Association president.
Gangs, drugs and crime prevention are the topics of a three-day symposium at The Casino at Lakemont Park, hosted by the Pennsylvania Gang Investigators Association and Operation Our Town on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday.
Gov. Tom Corbett is to make a special appearance at 12:30 p.m. Friday.
Cpl. Edwin Santana of the Morris County Sheriff's Office Bureau of Corrections, who spoke at the symposium Wednesday evening about gangs, specifically those in New Jersey, has been featured on the History Channel's "Gangland" and the National Geographic channels as a gang specialist and subject matter expert, a press release stated.
Santana, the International Latino Gang Investigators vice president and New Jersey Gang Investigators Association co-founder and training coordinator, has trained more than 16,000 law enforcement and civic personnel nationally on gang issues.
The media glorifies gangs through movies, television and video games, he said. Gang-associated rapper Snoop Dogg even appeared in an episode of Sesame Street as shown in Santana's PowerPoint presentation.
Blair County Children, Youth and Families caseworker Ann Mingyar came to the free public presentation on gangs because she felt in her line of work she should raise her awareness.
Afterwards, she said she was surprised at the impression she received of a lack of gang activity in the area.
YTI criminal justice student Brian Porter who also attended the presentation said he learned graffiti appears in communities before gangs.
The area has a lot of wannabe gang members, and gang families because of the prisons, he said. He believes the start of a problem is festering because after gang members leave Blair County Prison they end up staying. Gang-related traffic from Pittsburgh, Philadelphia and New Jersey also travels through the area, he said.