Educating the community about gang violence - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Educating the community about gang violence

August 25, 2003

Albany- Lt.... James Williams has traveled all over Georgia talking about gangs and how to keep them off the streets.

"We can fight that by charging them with that particular crime," Williams said.

But law enforcement and city leaders know the law cannot do it alone.

"It's going to take a collective effort of parents, civic leaders, church members and organizations to help educate and eradicate gang activity," said City Commissioner Jon Howard.

A fight at the Wynnsong Cinema August 16th has put gangs back in the spotlight.

Monday, Investigators upgraded the charges against four of the people arrested during the fight to send a message to young people about fighting. They're also using cameras in certain locations to catch gang members in criminal acts. Lately they seen more of those acts.

Between 1986 and 1997, there were 26 gangs identified in Dougherty County. That number dropped to 12 between 1997 and 2001. Since 2001, officers believe the number of active gangs has grown back to 20. Now there are more to gangs than specific colors, signias, hand signals and codes. They're evolving.

"They are getting more educated, they're moving to an economical base where they are pushing for an education to be leaders in the community," Williams said.

That makes it even more important for parents to know what to look for if they're worried their child is in a gang.

"Low self-esteem starts developing," he said. "Grades start dropping. Withdrawing from their parent, wearing specific colors."

And people who know about gang violence need to report it.

"We ask the community to call the police. Never feel that you are a nuisance. Hold us accountable." That's the only way, he says, to keep our communities safe.

To report any gang activity to Williams, call him at 431-2183. There are also Gang Task Force meetings held once a month at the Government Center that are open to the public.

posted at 10:20 p.m. by brannon.stewart@walb.com