Does Augusta have a gang problem?

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July 14, 2006

Investigators are still interviewing witnesses after a shootout at a gas station on Tobacco Road. A teenage girl was caught in the crossfire. Investigators believe two gangs, the O-Dubs and the Sunsets, were responsible for the shooting. Several suspects have turned themselves in.

And after First Friday this past week, deputies say between 30 and 50 people cornered four victims on Broad Street, beat them, and stole two cell phones. Investigators say the first attack against two men happened a little after one in the morning. Two more were attacked down the street a few minutes later. And officers tell News 12 none of the victims knew the attackers.

So here's the question: does Augusta have a gang problem?

David Brown knows Augusta's gangs from the inside out. He's lived in Augusta for 11 years and monitored gangs for the past seven.

Brown estimates there are 52 known gangs in Augusta alone.

Seven years ago Brown helped form the CSRA Neighborhood Crimes and Gangs Executive Committee.

He says it's time to get serious about the gang problem in Augusta.

"Right now the problem is they're scattered abroad the city of Augusta," he says. "There's a lot of guns on the street and that's one thing that the gangs love to do and have are those guns."

Brown grew up in Massachusetts, where he saw it all for himself.

"I grew up in and around gang activity," he says. "My mother's home, outside there were shootings every night. What inspired me is when a lot of young people started dropping."

And with gang clashes turning violent in Augusta, Brown wants to warn parents about the dangers.

"There's a lot of children who want to get involved. It begins right in the school. Recruiting begins right in the school system, and a lot of people don't know that," he says.

Brown says kids in single-parent homes are especially at risk.

"It's not a color thing anymore," he says. "It's mixed in now. It's not a black thing anymore. It's everybody."

"A lot of them don't understand that once you drop, once you are shot and dead, you are not coming back."

These days Brown spends his time trying to teach parents what to watch out for and warn kids that once they're in a gang, it's hard to get out.

He says peer pressure in the schools is so bad that recruiting starts as young as nine or ten years old.