February 12, 2007
AUGUSTA, Ga.---Gangs are growing in number by recruiting kids as young as elementary and middle school.
Tonight, a gang seminar was held in a neighborhood considered the heart of the problem: south Augusta.
News 12's Lynnsey Gardner sat down with the assistant principal of Glenn Hills Middle to find out what the school is doing to fight the problem.
Assistant Principal Benjamin Motley has worked in south Augusta schools for more than 20 years, and he's seen it all...including the area's first signs of gang activity, which he says emerged in 1985.
Tonight he's talking openly about what has to change to save our kids.
Augusta's largest gang, the O-Dubs, operates on the same streets where Motley's middle schoolers live. "O-Dubs" is short for OWTT, which is short for "Only With True Thugs".
"Five or six years ago you couldn't convince some people that they were here," he told News 12.
But they are...and gangs like the O-Dubs have power in numbers, growing by recruiting kids in our middle schools.
"Middle schoolers are very impressionable," Motley said. "They are leaving mother and father as king of their lives and are moving to their peers who are then king of their lives."
Motley says Glenn Hills Middle does not have a gang problem now, but it used to.
"We had some instances of bullying in the school, a few fights before school, during school and after school," he said.
The students were punished, and the staff took note.
"We try to be proactive and not reactive, so we learned from three years ago some of the things to look for."
Now they are sharing what they know with parents, bringing in local law enforcement and gang specialists to speak about the problem. The message is clear: parents are the key to fighting the gang problem.
"It's absolutely essential," said Richmond County's Lt. Scott Peebles. "I mean, it has to be done, and if they don't, they could end up visiting their child in jail...or even worse, visiting them graveside."
Educators, law enforcement, and parents: a team that must come together to keep our children out of a gang's reach.
"Right now I couldn't say if we're winning or not. All I know is we in a battle to save as many children as we can," Motley said.
Motley says it's tough to watch when former students get into trouble. He says it's something he's seen quite a few times.
There was a lot of talk about uniforms in schools and how they'd help keep kids in line, but that's not necessarily the case here.
Motley says the gangs have figured out a way around dress codes and even uniforms. For example, tucking in one side or another, or leaving the back of a shirt untucked, could all be signs of belonging to different neighborhoods.