OREM — A Provo man was booked into jail this week for the 25th time since he turned 18 — 2 1/2 years ago.

Police believe his latest offense was a gang-related assault at an Orem Wal-Mart.

Officers booked the 20-year-old into jail for investigation of five new crimes, topping a lengthy list of 81 offenses. Jail officials know the man well enough to refer to him as a "regular" behind their bars.

Although he visits often, his charges, mostly assault, driving and drug-related, never seem to keep him there for long. Utah County Jail officials say his longest stay was about 45 days.

"What you're seeing here with this guy, who is a total gang banger, is someone who just keeps getting through the system," said Orem Police Sgt. Bill Young. "I'm not saying that juvenile courts are to blame, but we have a dichotomy here where schools, police and courts aren't on the same page with these kids."

Young said larger groups of gangs have really "reared their ugly heads" in the past two years in Utah County, and are on the rise.

"We can't keep treating them the same," he said about troubled juveniles. "Right now we treat the one-time-offender kid who's out past curfew the same as repeat obvious gangsters with gang-related tattoos all over," he said. "They need different attention."

Police say the man was in Wal-Mart with two fellow gang members when he approached a shopper and asked him his gang association. When the shopper told the man and his friends that he didn't belong to any gang, they assaulted him, Young stated in a 4th District Court affidavit.

"Both males began to hit him about the head and face with their hands," the statement said. "One of the subjects hit him with brass knuckles, in the head. The female of the three was yelling to hit (the shopper) harder."

The attackers ran from the store, but the 20-year-old was later arrested and booked on unrelated arrest warrants. He was sitting in jail a few days later when Orem detectives caught up with him about the Wal-Mart incident.

That's when the man admitted to being at the store with his "homies," but would not admit to the assault, Young said. With eyewitnesses and store surveillance of the man, police felt confident enough to book him for investigation of two second-degree felony charges anyway, both of which were gang enhanced. He is being held on $15,000 cash or bond bail.

Detectives later identified the two other attackers as brother and sister, but neither has been arrested.

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