Teaching kids a GREAT program - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Teaching kids a GREAT program

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August 25, 2004

Americus-- At one time, gangs owned certain blocks of Americus. Their rule was one of crime, drugs and graffitti.

But, gangs are moving out of the city, and a GREAT education is making all the difference.

Americus police officer John Brown patrols the housing projects, "This area right here we call Northside, and at one time it was infiltrated with gang members." But not any more.

"We are fixing to define gangs. Someone want to fill it in?"

Officer John Brown and Sergeant Helen Sims are infiltrating this sixth grade classroom, targeting the next generation of gang members, "Where else are we going to get them? They are in a controlled environment here, where we can talk with them," says Sims.

There is a lot of talk going on and a lot of real life lessons on what gang life is like for kids who join. Sims says, "So what do they do? They go find gang members, because they think that is their family. We teach them, no, gang members are not your family. You have to get beat to get into a gang, some of them are born into it."

These veteran cops know a thing or two about gangs, and they're sharing their knowledge through the GREAT Program. It means Gang Resistance Education And Training, "We let them know that gang life is not as glamorous as they see on TV--it is just not like that," says Sims.

But, are a workbook and a few caring cops making a difference? "Since we started our GREAT program, we are not seeing quite as much gang activity. If it's there it is not where we can see it. It is not as visible."

The proof is found on the streets, "We put a stop to it, pretty much, it is still out there but it is not as bad as it use to be, not at all," says Officer Brown. Safe streets, thanks to a GREAT program.

The Americus GREAT program received a $32,000 dollar federal grant this week that will keep the program going for a few more years.

Posted at 4:30 p.m. by melissa.kill@walb.com