Mentor, authorities try to reduce gang violence in Augusta

Published: Oct. 4, 2022 at 6:34 PM EDT
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AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) - We’re continuing to follow the story of violent crime in Augusta and how we’re finding more teenagers and young people at the center of it.

Gang intervention specialists tell us up to 70 percent of violent crimes we see, are connected to gangs.

We sat down with Richmond County’s Gang Task Force to talk about the warning signs parents can look out for.

AUGUSTA VIOLENT CRIME:

Not only did we talk to law enforcement, but we also talked to a man who mentored one of the victims in a recent shooting. He described it as heartbreaking.

You never expect to see someone you know on the other end of senseless gun violence.

It was hard news for Clifford Boyd to see one of his former students fall victim to gun violence.

“I was in disbelief,” he said.

Zayquentez Jones, 17, died after being shot at Smart Grocery.

“He actually is one of the students that actually put in the work to be better,” said Boyd.

Boyd was a mentor for Jones.

“At times I wish I could just do more,” he said.

He was his 7th-grade teacher and track coach.

“Knowing the behind the scenes of what they’re going through that doesn’t get broadcasted for the rest of the city to see is very unfortunate. The kids need help,” said Boyd.

Help is exactly what Devon Harris is working to do as a gang intervention specialist. He says this situation was most likely gang-related.

“Seventy percent of all crime in a community is gang-related. It has some kind of ties and some kind of leg to it,” he said.

He’s working with families on what to look out for.

“We talk about the things that you’re not doing at the house, and you will have a bonified, educated, gang member if you do not do these things at home,” he said.

He teaches classes on how to keep your kids out of a gang. Things like not having a good man at home, no supervision, and no communication are all factors that parents can change at home.

“One of the things that families need to understand is that if your kids is already wrapped up in this. A lot of programs in our community is not going to help them because the influence of a gang is like a drug,” he said.

Harris says it’s a community effort, and these are ways you can start to look out for your kids.

Boyd said: “I’ll step forward and follow suit with anyone who wants to work with me, and I’ll work with them to band together to make some changes.”

Harris tells us that LOE has been a big problem in our community for at least a decade. The target group for the task force is juveniles. It’s so important to get to these kids early because he says they see them as early as elementary school.