The Georgia Bureau of Investigation reports there are more than 70,000 gang members in the state of Georgia.
Devon Harris runs a gang intervention program for at-risk youth in Richmond County. He said for some teens being involved in gangs comes from a lack of family structure and a difficult home environment.
” They’re looking for something where they can feel secure and show their manhood in,” Harris said.
A $230,000 grant from the US Department of Justice, targeting youth ages 9 to 15 in Richmond County aims to stop teens from getting involved in gangs.
U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Georgia, Bobby Christine said the Richmond County Juvenile Court will use the grant money to fund juvenile justice gang prevention programs.
Christine said the programs will be tracked to determine their effectiveness.
” By data we’ll make sure that the things that work get embellished and the things that don’t work we’ll try something else. God willing this grant will help these children realize that there is an alternative or at least provide a network where no network currently is,” Christine said.
Harris said reaching youth before they get a record is critical.
” Its very important because once they get on somebody’s rap sheet or in the DOC or DJJ system its probably a total loss or the problem is you get in that structured environment and it makes sense,” Harris said.
Under the grant the Richmond County Juvenile Center will also be involved in supporting youth through community-based mentoring programs.