Sheriff's Gang Prevention program goes into action - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Sheriff's Gang Prevention program goes into action

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May 31, 2007

Albany --  Recent acts of gang violence have many people in Albany outraged, and searching for answers.  The Dougherty County Sheriff says stepping up prosecution of gang members is one way to fight them.  But he also says keeping kids from joining gangs in the first place is the best way to cut down their numbers. 

A gang sign glorifying the Bloods on a business just blocks from the center of Downtown Albany. Sheriff's Deputies say gangs are in every corner of Albany. Dougherty County Sheriff's Office Captain Kevin Sproul said "There are gangs there. Gangs are like maggots and roaches, they are everywhere."

Albany teens put on colors, but instead of gang bandanas, they are putting on team jerseys.
Instead of a shootout, these kids are playing dodge ball in a summer youth program sponsored by the Dougherty County Sheriff's Office. 

GREAT, or Gang Resistance Education And Training, started Thursday with 137 kids. Teaching these kids to avoid gangs before they get involved. "We're trying to show them the negative side of gangs.  That the gang is all about the leader.  And what the leader can prosper out of the gang," said Sproul.

Lawmen say gangs this summer will be recruiting fifth and sixth graders like these.  The GREAT Program is taking them off the street,  keeping them out of gangs instead of arresting them later. 

Sheriff Jamil Saba started the GREAT program in Albany in 1994, and he says it works. "If you can prevent it, you won the game."

The GREAT Program is full for the summer. Community leaders say the gang problem in Albany is bad, because there are too many kids falling through the cracks into the gangs.

Albany State University's Dr. Joshua Murfree agrees, "You are still going to see the outburst of gangs, because we miss so many children."

Even though gang violence continues to make headlines, Captain Sproul says he sees law enforcement winning the battle against gangs. "I'm starting to see it come around. With the community coming together more and working together hand in hand, with more agencies coming in play, I'm starting to see improvement," Sproul said.

But he says more community involvement teaching these kids to avoid gangs would be better than putting them in prison in the future.

The Dougherty County School Police, Jail officers, and Dougherty County Sheriff's deputies supervise the GREAT Program.

This year school nurses sponsored by Phoebe Putney Hospital will also work as counselors.


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