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Parents offered spring break gang advice

Michael Persley, assistant commander of the Albany Police Department Gang Task Force, has advice on how parnets can keep children out of trouble over spring break.

Michael Persley, assistant commander of the Albany Police Department Gang Task Force, has advice on how parnets can keep children out of trouble over spring break.

ALBANY, Ga. -- With spring break starting Monday for students of Dougherty County's public schools, members of the Albany Police Department's Gang Task Force are taking to heart the old adage, "Idle hands are the devil's workshop."

Michael Persley, assistant commander of the gang unit, spoke to members of the media Friday, offering advice to parents of school- age children.

"To begin with, the Albany Police Department wants all the kids in Dougherty County to have a good time this spring break," Persley said. "Kids work hard during the school year and they deserve some time to relax."

Persley warned, however, that as kids search for five days of activities to entertain themselves and occupy their minds, its possible they could find themselves in trouble -- even looking seriously into gang or criminal activities.

"As my mother used to say, 'The later you stay out, the more trouble you're likely to get into,'" Persley said.

According to Persley, school breaks will find more children hanging out at the Albany Mall, at certain restaurants or even at night clubs.

"You can get three or four people together, and what seemed at first to be a good idea can turn out to be a bad decision," Persley said.

Above all, Persley recommends parents make sure their children are supervised in some way throughout the break. If the parent can't always be there, he suggests introducing children to recreation centers, such as the Boys & Girls Clubs or the YMCA.

"(The centers) help by giving them activities," Persley said. "Anything that will keep their interest."

Persley stressed that even during spring break, police will continue to enforce curfew laws for minors, which are 11 p.m. on weekday nights and midnight on weekends. According to Persley, the degree of enforcement of the curfew is, to some degree, dependent on each situation. For someone new to town or for a first offender, a warning generally is given. For frequent violators, the child or parent may be charged.

To head off possible gang involvement, which can occur even with young children, Persley said communication is of the greatest importance.

"Talk to your children," Persley said. "You should be able to ask your child any question. You need to know anything and everything that's going on with your children. If you really want an indicator, take a look at their activities when spring break has ended. Do they do the same things, hang around the same people or has something changed."

Persley said if the the child is involved in social media, such as Facebook, the parent should also be involved and know what the child is doing.