“Empower our Youth”: New program to curb gang activity and gun violence in Burke County

CSRA News

WAYNESBORO, Ga. (WJBF) —- Gun violence and gang activity have been ongoing issues in Burke County. Law enforcement agencies want to put an end to it.

“We know we need somebody that’s in charge of coordinating whatever it takes to empower our youth, to get them on the right path for those who need it,” said Chief Deputy Lewis Blanchard.

The Burke County Sheriff’s Office is proposing a new initiative called “Empower Our Youth.” Non-law enforcement citizens would help run it. They are looking for a three year $200,000 grant to fund the new program.

“We’re spending about $10,000 a year to educate students and about $40,000 to incarcerate people,” explained Blanchard. “It’s 10,000 or $40,000; if we fail to educate, they are going to be incarcerated. Look at the incarceration rates across the United States.”

It will target the youth and guide parents to help their kids. Waynesboro mayor told NewsChannel 6 reporter, Devin Johnson, people demand action after criminal activity.

“Even with all the shootings, everybody comes out and says we need to do something,” described the Waynesboro’s Mayor, Greg Carswell. “After a month, when the fire has gone down, no other shootings have to happen, then we let it slip through cracks, and it goes away.”

The program would involve many people, but one person would have the job of running it. That way, other local leaders can still focus on their everyday tasks.

“If you put it on the mayor’s plate, then guess what is going to happen? asked Mayor Carswell. “The mayor is going to be working on it, but he is also going to be working on 200 other things, and something may slip through the cracks.”

Chief Blanchard says the biggest excuse in Burke County when it comes to crime, people saying there is nothing to do.

“Gangs do love people, and that’s why people love to go into gangs because, in their minds, nobody loves them,” said Blanchard. “The problem is gangs love you to death, and that is what is going to happen if you join a gang.”

Chief Blanchard says the proposed program must go through the county commission, board of education and the city before it gets approved.

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