Keeping kids out of gangs

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Sunday, July 20th, 2014

AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW)- Everyone wants to belong, but the search for protection and care can sometimes land teens in the wrong group. Gang activity is on the rise, and one man is making it his mission to help kids find another way.

Almost half of gang members are under 18, and one gang specialist says the younger you educate kids on what gang life really is the better chance they have of avoiding it.

"The gang mentality in our streets do not sleep," said Devon Harris.

That's why Devon Harris talks to kids to keep them out of gang activity, and the younger the better.
Even kids as young as six because he says gang mentality starts as young as 10.

"You see a ten year old that might be imitating that or mocking what they think is a norm but sooner or later someone is going to put a gun in their hand," said Harris.

Antonio Brooks just graduated from Josey High School. He avoided the gang life, but many of his classmates didn't.

"I see a lot. I don't say a lot, but I see a lot," said Antonio Brooks.

Brooks says his school gets a bad wrap, and he thinks if people came to speak there it could change students' lives.

"Someone from outside of the household could brainwash them and convince them, so I feel like it's just a love thing. They're looking for someone that can take care of or someone that can be there for them," said Brooks.

Gang activity is something plaguing our area. Back in June, 13 teens and young adults were indicted on gang related charges in Burke County. Harris says in the past year gangs have grown
starting in one city and spreading to another, but Harris says it has to stop.

"If we can educate, educate, educate we can eradicate the gang mentality," said Harris.

Housing inmates is expensive. In Georgia, it cost 91,000 dollars to house one person in YDC for a year. Right now, Richmond County's YDC has 38 inmates. That adds up to over 3 million dollars a year, and harris says most of those teens are serving a 2 to 5 year sentence.

"So the reality if it's not put in check and someone doesn't educate we're going to see more of that happen," said Harris.