News 12 First at Five/ June 25, 2014
BURKE COUNTY, Ga. (WRDW) -- Gang violence is a big problem in a lot of places, including Burke County.
Officials are hoping if they lock up enough gang members, the problems will go away. They're one step closer to that goal after a grand jury in Burke County indicted 13 teens and young adults on gang related charges.
Scotty Kelly lives in Waynesboro, and he drives by Magnolia Gardens everyday. He lives just down the block from the housing complex, where he says you can always find trouble.
"Shooting, drugs, a lot of stuff like that and fights," he says of the activity there. Police say the area is known for gang activity and they monitor the stretch pretty regularly.
"They come around, but they don't really ever see anything because when they hear a cop, they run," Kelly said.
Police caught the rival gangs fighting several times last year. The ongoing scuffle eventually led to a home invasion. Then, earlier this year, the fighting continued, leading to a shootout at a party. Deputies say gang members shot and injured five teens there. Now, 13 teens and young adults are in jail charged with crimes ranging from unlawful gang activity to aggravated assault.
"I hope they got a good bit of them, but it goes on so they'll have to get a lot more," Kelly said.
Devon Harris is a local gang intervention specialist. He says he could see this problem coming for Burke County.
"Five years ago we started the program in the community center there," Harris said. "The community center didn't stay open because of funding."
He says reaching kids at a young age is critical. Keeping them busy helps, but parenting is key.
"You need to look at things like if their clothing changes, their music, and their friends. You've got to be that parents in their lives," he said.
The Burke County Sheriff's Office says these gang violence cases are all still open and they expect more arrests.
They hosted a class for middle school students in the county two weeks ago called 'Dress for Success' to help keep kids on the straight and narrow.