News 12 at 6 o'clock / Monday, Aug. 5, 2013
AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW) -- Gang experts are looking at the trends in Augusta, and they say what they see is concerning them.
Rev. Devon Harris, a gang intervention specialist and the executive director of Full Circle Refuge says, "In all the years I've been in the Augusta area seeing gang trends, this is the first time I've ever seen a summertime trend."
Deputies say gang members were responsible for the murder of Larry Elam in June after an argument about a bandana. A known gang member allegedly shot and killed him in his living room.
And you may remember surveillance video, seen only on News 12, that captured a gang shootout in a neighborhood. The video led to the arrest of several gang members.
With all of the violence, Sgt. Shane McDaniel with RCSO says, "Investigations division has been working nonstop. We've been really busy."
There were even shootings this weekend, four to be exact. In the past 17 days, 18 people have been shot, five of those killed. Some of those incidents have been gang related, and Rev. Harris is worried about what this will mean in the coming school year.
"This is going to be unique when school starts. How is this going to affect kids? Because I work with guys at Cross Creek, Hephzibah, Butler, and the guys at Cross Creek right now are saying they're concerned."
Typically, Harris says gang violence hits a lull in the summertime when kids are separated and disconnected from school friends, but he says social media is changing a lot of that.
"Gangs are using Twitter, they're using it to do their shots, do their calls, drug deals, or put on blast that somebody may be at that party," he said.
And now, a new gang task force is in the works. Harris says he's already met with Richmond County investigators to help them brainstorm.
Sheriff Richard Roundtree says, "That's what our new intelligence unit is trying to do is track those individual, trying to see their affiliations, come up with profiles so we know about these individuals before crime happens."
Harris says some well-known community leaders want to get on board for the task force, everyone from Sen. Hardie Davis to Helen Blocker Adams.
In the meantime, they say it's important for parents to be proactive in recognizing signs in their kids. Here are a few tips for what to look out for.