Community meeting addresses young criminals - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Community meeting addresses young criminals

February 24, 2007

Albany -- A special Town Hall meeting in East Albany focuses on an issue that affects everyone, our local criminal and juvenile justice system. One issue spurring much discussion is the number of school-aged children wandering the streets during school hours. Concerned citizens say these students are out causing trouble.

These citizens say gang-activity and burglary are among the crimes these young people are out committing. And for it to stop it takes effort from the community as a whole.

One family says it's their involvement in their son's life that helps him make the right decisions.

Parents Peggy Hicks and Roger Morgan brought their 14-year-old son Reuben to the meeting to learn about problems other kids his age face. Problems he says he doesn't want to happen to him.

"I don't need anything to get in my way for me not to accomplish my goals," said Reuben Morgan.

"There's a lot of things happening around this neighborhood, gang-related and other things. I brought him here where he can get knowledge about what's going on in the community," said Roger Morgan.

Knowledge about what happens to students who are on the streets skipping class, doing drugs and joining gangs. It's these issues that concern citizens, saying it starts when students aren't in the classroom, but on the streets instead. Police say the community must do their part.

APD says people should call police in case they see young people wandering these streets during school hours because they might be students skipping class, and out to commit a crime.

During the Town Hall meeting, the county court system, DA's office, school system and city police say they'll fight back against students who commit truancy, because it can lead to burglary, robbery, or gang-activity.

"Any felony is punishable by being placed in a youth detention center for a certain period of time," said Juvenile Court Judge Herbie Solomon.

That's time away from home Reuben says he'd rather spend with his family. After attending the meeting he learned how young people who misbehave disrupt a community, so he won't let it happen to him.

"Stay focused and try to influence my friends to stay out of trouble," said Reuben Morgan.

A message he'll share with his friends because he had someone to share it with him.

Local leaders say students who skip only hurt themselves because they are less likely to graduate and more likely to break the law.

The DA's office has an accountability program that involves students and parents, for students who repeatedly skip school.

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