By Mike Hellgren

BALTIMORE (WJZ) — The death of an innocent young father caught in gang crossfire at a bus stop in Baltimore is sending shockwaves through the community—but it’s far from the only incident. A report shows gang activity is growing statewide.

Mike Hellgren digs deeper into the problem.

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Baltimore City alone has an estimated 170 gangs with more than 1,000 members—many lured in when they’re just little boys.

“They typically go down to eight years old,” said Baltimore City Police Captain Byron Conaway. “It’s a bad problem. A lot of the shootings, homicides, are gang-related. They are spread throughout the city.”

At a bus stop on busy Saratoga Street downtown, police say Brandon Finney—a Shock Trauma technician and father of a 15-month old—got used as a human shield Sunday when two members of the BGF gang had a shootout with a rival Blood.

“You just stay positive. We’re moving forward. We’re going to celebrate his life,” said his sister, Tiara Finney.

Finney’s family is not alone in their pain. Almost a decade ago, cab driver and father of nine Derald Guess was murdered in a Blood gang initiation in Harford County.

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While laws have been strengthened at the State House and police have specialized units, they haven’t wiped out the problem and its root: the illegal drug trade.

“We actually know who these guys are who are actually involved in this gang leadership,” Conaway said.

A detailed report by the state of Maryland last year lists 10 gangs as big problems statewide and says gang activity is only increasing, with notable pockets of activity—even in wealthy suburban areas like Howard County or rural western Maryland.

Until the gang problem is addressed, sadly, more innocent people will die in the crossfire.

“It’s not for me to say. It’s for God,” Tiara Finney said.

The Finney family is trying to raise money for Brandon’s funeral. If you would like to help, click here.

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