YDC violence blamed on gangs - WALB.com, South Georgia News, Weather, Sports

YDC violence blamed on gangs

Gang violence is a problem at the Albany Regional Youth Detention Center, but it's a problem the center is working to solve.

The Albany facility's assault rate is the highest of the state youth centers. The center's director says gangs are behind much of that violence.

Albany's Gang Task Force is concerned about youth crime in the community getting more violent. Many of those young gang members end up in the RYDC where leaders are working to teach them a better way of life.

Crip gang signs painted on the streets of South Albany, marking their territory. The new director of Albany's RYDC says even behind bars young people want to continue those gang wars.

 "The ganging was enormous," said Albany RYDC Facility Director Sandra Cawthon. "A new kid could walk through the door and within minutes we had three or four kids want to jump on that kid. And I had to find out what is the reason for this. And it's sad to say gang-related."

Law enforcement officials say more Albany kids are being lured into gangs and committing crimes, because their home life is insufficient.

"It's not just a law enforcement issue. These things are social issues," said Albany Police Chief John Proctor.

"They join gangs because they want to be accepted. They want to feel safe. they want to feel secure," Cawthon said.

At the RYDC officials are pushing education and structure to help kids learn how not to end up behind bars again. They have honor roll programs and model student rewards that are working. But the kids average stay is only 30 days, and then most return to the gangs and streets that led them into trouble. And the youth crimes are getting much more violent.

 "I've seen that grow from shoplifting to carjacking to murder. And it's sad that these kids are no more than 13, 14, 15 years of age," Cawthon said.

The RYDC director said most of the kids behind their fences are bright and talented, but most need guidance to stay away from gangs and a life behind bars. 

The Albany RYDC director said in the short time kids are with them, they try to teach the gang members to follow rules, because if they won't follow the rules while they are locked up, they definitely won't do it when they are back on the streets.

The Albany RYDC holds 30 kids, mostly boys. Cawthon said the center's education programs is having great success, with 11 students making the A-and-B honor roll.


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