Officers work to keep gangs out of your schools

By: Hope Jensen Email
By: Hope Jensen Email

News 12 at 6 o'clock / Friday, Aug. 9, 2013

AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW) -- As Richmond County students prepare to head back to school on Monday, some parents are worried recent violence could spill into the classrooms.

But Richmond County's school safety chief says they've been working for a while to keep gangs out of the schools.

He says they have a gang task force, and over the summer, nine officers, including himself, attended some sort of training for gang activity, but that doesn't stop parents from worrying.

"I can't speak for all the schools, but for me, I think what's going on at Sego [Middle School] is pretty bad," said Toshira Dolman, who has four kids in the Richmond County School System.

Her youngest twins are going into eighth grade and she says gangs have tried to initiate both of them.

"Those kids are fighting in hallway," she said. "You could see them grouped up down the street close to the school just waiting for stuff to happen."

At the end of last year, one got to her daughter.

"When they decided to jump her in, they didn't ask her if she wanted to be in; they just decided they needed some girls and they went and hit her in the hallway and said that she was a part of their gang," explained Dolman.

Just last week, multiple Richmond County high school students showed up in court to face charges of unlawful street gang activity.

"It starts in the home and then into the community and then into our schools," said School Safety Chief Alfonzo Williams. "So we're there the front-line defense to say, 'Hey, we're not gonna have that here.'"

It's a problem many fear is getting worse, and as Richmond County students head back to school Monday, parents like Dolman are worried.

"We're very much aware of what's out there," Williams said. "We know there's a number of gangs in the Augusta community."

But he says they're doing everything they can to keep them out of the schools, "We have resource officers in all of our schools who are trained on what to look for, how to deal with it."

Dolman is having to learn how to do that, too. She's seen firsthand how quickly it happen and doesn't want what happened to her daughter to happen to your child.

"It only ends badly," she said.

Dolman says her daughter didn't tell her because she was scared. Instead Dolman got a call from a teacher letting her know what had happened -- a good example of why they are training these teachers to help spot things like this.

Gang experts say gangs are in every school in every community but there's only so much the schools can do.

Dolman says she contacted the principal and the board about what happened but didn't receive a response.

The Richmond County Board of Education will have a summit Saturday for parents and school safety will be speaking to parents about gangs. That will be from 10 a.m. to noon at the BOE.

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