Albany bus tour outlines gang activity - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Albany bus tour outlines gang activity

October 30, 2005

Albany-- Law enforcement officials say gang activity is on the rise in Albany. Graffiti filled walls around the city are proof of the activity. It's not your typical street artwork.

It's all aboard the bus as dozens of citizens get ready for a Saturday morning trip. But this isn't your average ride around the city. "No, it's not," says citizen Bertha McDonald. The destination? Places around town with gang activity. "We are seeing a big increase in gang activities," says Lt. James Williams of the Albany Police Department.

"It's not only just one side of town. It's in all parts of Dougherty County, West, East, South side," says McDonald.

Proof is found at each stop on the tour, pitchforks, stars, and numbers. They're signs and symbols left behind by gangs. "A combination from hate groups down to the Crips, the Bloods, CME Rattlers, things of that nature," says Commissioner Jon Howard. Some of the signs can be found nationwide but this bus tour shows citizens in Albany that it can happen in any city.

"They're scared. It's not to scare them but to let them know the difference between artistic and gang graffiti," says Lt. Williams. Organizers say gang activity usually takes place in isolated areas like the back of a vacant furniture store building on Dawson Road. This was one of several stops on the tour. Law enforcement hopes by bringing areas like this to the public eye, the walls will get cleaned and stay clean.

"We have seen in the past that when we did education programs with the community before, gang activity is reduced," says Lt. Williams. The activity is reduced with the help of citizens taking a stand by first taking a seat. "I think this is something that will stick with me for a long time and also help me to recognize and help my child to understand what's going on in the community," says McDonald.

That's the objective of the tour, to make citizens more aware. The awareness just might save lives and money. "Gangs and graffiti cost cities billions of dollars once they desecrate buildings. We all pay whether we pay now or pay later," says Howard.

This free ride could be the solution to a growing problem. If you see any gang activity or graffiti in your area, you are urged to call 911. Calls can be anonymous.

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