It would be naive for anyone to believe our region is not impacted by gangs, drug dealers and others involved in criminal behavior. All one has to do is read the daily police blotters from communities throughout the area published in the Register to affirm that.
We understand why police and prosecutors decided to attach gang specification charges against numerous people who were involved in a fight Aug. 25. The brawl was videotaped and is difficult to watch because it's so disheartening.
But 13 of the people arrested in the course of the investigation are underage teenagers, and many of their parents are angered over the gang charges attached to filings in court against them. They contend the fight was over a heated disagreement on a basketball court, and it appears that might be the case since the videotaped fighting was tame by gang standards.
There was a lot of slapping, posturing and macho man-standing captured on the video, but gangs don't usually play it out that way. Gangs use guns and knives and violent beatings to settle turf wars and none of that was shown here. Gang specification charges require an ongoing criminal enterprise to be evident before that label can be used.
The teens and their families involved here, and even the adults who were charged, don't deserve a "gang" label unless it can be shown — beyond reasonable doubt — they were engaged in a criminal gang enterprise. We hope prosecutors carefully consider that as these cases move forward and remove that label and the gang charges if they cannot show the criminal enterprise that warrants them.
Obviously, property was destroyed and criminal damaging charges, disorderly conduct and other charges might be appropriate, but this is not be the first, nor will it be the last, fight that will happen over a heated disagreement in a competitive game.