Police spread gang awareness - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Police spread gang awareness

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September 21, 2006

Albany -- An apparent gang-related drive-by shooting brings renewed attention to Albany's gang problem. Two teenagers are recovering from gunshot wounds and four teens remain in custocy tonight after the shooting yesterday afternoon.

Some people make sure kids learn how to stay away from gangs at an early age.

You can say these 6 to 8-year-old boys look up to Coach Al Watts, literally.

Watt's has been involved with youth sports for 15 years now. He describes what it is that makes a difference in the lives of these young football players.

"Having a positive male role model in their lives, guys doing the right thing in their community and in their neighborhood," said Al Watts.

It's people like Coach Watts who influence young minds, giving the children a choice between a positive lifestyle or one involved with criminal activity on the streets.

Police say there are up to 18 gangs active in Albany right now, leaving behind their marks on homes, businesses, and other public places.

Albany police investigator Lt. James Williams has lots of literature, applications, and test people take to join gangs. He says it's a problem on the rise here on Albany streets.

"Gangs are a death to our society, and the reason I say that is because people I met back in '86 when I first started, they're no longer here or they're incarcerated, so that's a sign it's a death to our society," said Lt. James Williams.

The most recent example a gang's negative effects, when two teens were shot, by a different group of teens on Cleveland Street. Police say there are ways the community can fight back.

"Get involved, surround your young people with positive role models, people not with a hidden agenda that are willing to help, support, and love those individuals,"

Just like Coach Watts does for these young children.

"Gangs is something negative, and everything out here we're teaching positive things, how to treat your teammates, how to talk to your teammates, learning the kids how to do positive things," said Watts.

And Coach Watts hopes these young people will catch on to his positive attitude and become productive adults.

Albany Police officers reguarly speak to church, school, and civic groups about gang awareness.

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