Gang force speaker tells parents to listen

Cheryl Calhoun

Cheryl Calhoun

ALBANY, Ga. -- Cheryl Calhoun, with the local Parents for Change group, told attendees of the monthly Gang Task Force and Violence Prevention Meeting to listen to their children and reduce gang participation.

Speaking before about a dozen local residents, police officers and city officials, Calhoun said that ending the common practice of "pushing problem children aside" could be the key to ending a child's need to join a gang.

"(Parents for Change) decided to train on how to be effective, how to deal with the problems young people have," Calhoun said. "Sometimes I know people just want someone to listen. That's it. It sounds so simple. I talked with a troubled 16-year-old girl. I got her aside from her mother and I just listened -- let her talk. Finally, I talked a little."

Calhoun said that later on she got a call from the girl's mother, telling her how good the girl was doing.

"Sometimes the problem is not as great as we think it is, if we just listen," Calhoun said.

Lt. Tony Moore with the Albany Police Department works closely with Parents for Change. Moore said the group grew out of Stop the Violence, another local organization.

"One day we just said, 'Let's start our own gang,'" Moore said. "We wanted to go into the schools, but it took a year to be accepted there. What happened was we stated mentoring these kids.

"That is one awesome way to curb a kid's criminal activity. We have more than 60 kids we're mentoring right now."

Moore said that in addition to the mentoring, the members volunteer their time for activities, "reality talks" and drug information talks, going into churches schools and apartment complexes.

The Gang Task Force and Violence Prevention Meeting is held each month in room 120 of the Government Center, 222 Pine Ave. All community members are invited. The next meeting is scheduled for noon Aug. 22.