ALBANY, Ga. — Many times it is education, mentoring and just plain kindness that lead to preventing gang membership and crimes.
Dougherty County Sheriff Kevin Sproul spoke about the mission his Crime Prevention and Intervention Unit undertakes to engage community youth at the monthly noon meeting of the Gang Task Force in the Government Center.
“The statutes of Georgia law give my office four duties,” Sproul said. “Maintain the peace, protect life, protect property and provide services to the community.”
The services to the community include multiple programs to steer youth away from gangs into a better way of living as contributing members of society.
As leader of the crime prevention team of two, Lt. Terron Hayes gave the audience of Albany city commissioners, police officers and concerned community members a rundown of various programs.
A few of the educational programs discussed were: Gang Resistance Education and Training, Choosing Healthy Activities and Methods Promoting Safety, Scared Straight and Stranger Danger.
“The programs give them a character education,” Hayes said, “and give them incentives for doing well.”
The Scared Straight program is exactly as it implies. Inmates speak about their experiences in gangs and the behind-bars consequences of their crimes.
Another program run by Hayes and his assistant, Deputy Vivian Hunt, is Prom Promise. It is set up to remind students at prom time of the dangers of drinking and driving and doing drugs. The students are asked to make a good decision and to sign a contract to refrain from the dangerous behaviors.
“We want them to have a clean and healthy prom,” Hayes said.
In addition, last year the unit gave 98 presentations concerning gangs, drugs, bullying and good parenting. Many times children do not want to talk to their parents about their concerns, Hayes said.
“We give them someone else to talk to,” Hayes said. “We provide the right direction.”
An act of kindness at the holidays led Sproul to a potential gang member. During the holidays the Sheriff’s Office gives 1,200 meals to families.
“While I was giving food at this man’s doorstep, he said, ‘I need to talk to you about something,’” Sproul said. “He told me, ‘I think my nephew may be going into a gang.’”
Sproul did not elaborate on the nephew or what became of him. It is a good bet the nephew eventually did have someone to talk to after his uncle spoke to Sproul.