ALBANY, GA (WALB) - Several South Georgia law enforcement agencies have programs in schools to help curb gang violence.
Anthony Mackey, a former Albany gang member, said part of the problem is when young people join gangs, they don’t see a way out. He warned people to be on the lookout for signs that your child or loved one may have become involved in a gang.
“You got to make a decision on what you wanna do in life. You either want to go to jail or you want to end up dead," said Mackey.
Mackey said he was in a gang from 12 to 16 years old. He grew up on the south side of Albany and went to the former Southside Middle School.
Mentors in the community stepped in to save him before he got too deep into the gang life.
“It was just frustrating. [I] Tried to commit suicide because I was just so frustrated with life and didn’t have an understanding," said Mackey. “I hung out with the wrong crowd.”
Mackey was kicked out of the house and his grandmother raised him until he was 18. From smoking marijuana, to getting shot at, he lost seven or eight friends to gang violence.
If you think your child is in a gang, Mackey said you should watch for sudden mood swings, particular colors in their wardrobe and monitor the company they keep.
“Really get into their business like, who is that, what’s his name, where does he stay," said Mackey. “Invite his friend over so you can figure out what’s his motive.”
The best way to get out, Mackey said, is to change your mind and the crowd you hang with. He said some people didn’t get out in time.
“I was working somewhere and the kid did an awful act," said Mackey. "I can’t state what it was he did, but I know in the middle of the night, it was so bad he wanted to go home but he couldn’t. And probably 12 or 1 o’clock in the morning I just heard this young man screaming for his mother.”
Mackey said the first step of getting out of gang life was escaping mentally and then his actions followed. He traveled across the U.S. and to Africa.
“I got a opportunity to travel to Washington D.C. for almost three to four years. I met a lot of former gang members that spoke life into my life," said Mackey.
Now that he’s a husband and father, he said young adults can explore college or play sports instead.
Mackey works in Albany and volunteers with the youth and his church. At just 30 years old, his life has turned around completely.
“I wont say that I did it in one night. It was a process," said Mackey.
If you would like to contact Anthony Mackey, you can message him on his Facebook page.