Gang Task Force gears up to meet summer goals

ALBANY, Ga. -- When students come out of school for summer, there could be a variety of programs to keep them busy and out of trouble.

Speakers at the Albany Police Department's April Gang Task Force meeting Thursday in the Government Center at 222 Pine Ave. outlined plans for when schools close for summer.

Albany City Commissioner Jon Howard asked what the unit has planned to keep residents safe from gang violence in the heat of the summer.

Without alerting criminals to the plans and programs the Gang Unit has ready to keep the streets safe, Capt. Wendy Luster did respond.

"I can't give our plans out. But we have plans in action in every district that allow me to say with confidence you will be able to sit on your porch and drink your sweet tea," Luster said.

Safety will also take a commitment from residents to call the police about suspicious people, places and activity, Luster added. "Don't be afraid to call us about your concerns," she said.

As college students, AmeriCorps cadets are more readily accepted by young people in the community, making them solid role models for younger students.

"We do a lot of mentoring," said Cadet Mercedes Luster. "The kids seem more willing to talk to us than a police officer."

Among the summer projects planned by the cadets are:

  • Junior Police and Senior Police Academies

  • Summer Youth Camps

  • A Latino Health and Community Fair May 5 at 121 S. Mock Road

  • Buddy Ball, a special-needs project June 16

  • Weekly litter pickup and crime prevention projects

Citing a shortfall of funding for summer projects from the state, Mayor Dorothy Hubbard, said volunteers are needed to supervise programs and projects.

"I'd like to see our churches take more of a role in helping with the children," Hubbard said. "I'd like them to become more involved."

Other involved groups such as the Dougherty County School System and the city of Albany's Recreation and Parks Department also face budget challenges but plan to stage many programs for the summer.

Barbara Turner, director of services for the school system said, "I expect to have a full house busting at the seams at our summer programs."