Mentor urges activity, observation to keep kids from gangs - WAFF-TV: News, Weather and Sports for Huntsville, AL

Mentor urges activity, observation to keep kids from gangs

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A youth mentor recommends lots of activity and keeping a watchful eye on your children. A youth mentor recommends lots of activity and keeping a watchful eye on your children.

Summer is upon us, school is out, and gang activity is up. Officials said this time of year is when gangs work heavily to recruit kids.

Officials in Decatur are taking a proactive approach to keeping gangs and violence out of their community. They said now is the time to take action because the start of the summer is when they see an increase in gang activity.

Kids who utilize Decatur Youth Services have big dreams. For some, it's going to college; for others, it's becoming a basketball star. The key to making those dreams happen is staying out of trouble – something their family, friends and community leaders are constantly reminding them.

Several boys at the center Wednesday shared some of the things they repeatedly hear from the people they look up to: "Do right in school. Get an education… Surround yourself by the right people."

They said that can be tough when troublemakers come knocking.

"They are looking to recruit these young guys to do some of their mischief, whether it's breaking into people's homes, stealing from the store, and definitely selling drugs," said DYS Director Bruce Jones.

Jones works with at-risk kids and teens to keep them out of trouble, especially at this point in the year. He said the start of summer is the height of gang activity.

"During this time, they are out on the streets more, hanging out with their friends more, so they are easily persuaded and led into those negative activities," Jones said.

To combat that, he keeps the kids busy with, among other things, sports. He urges parents to keep a watchful eye on their children.

"Know what they are doing, know what they have on their Facebook, know what they are doing on their cell phones, and really notice the people they are hanging out with, especially if they are new friends," said Jones.

Jones said another thing that will help kids stay out of dangerous situations is developing healthy relationships with positive people. He said if they respect you and listen to you, there is a good chance you can help them stay out of harm's way.

"We are trying to prevent (gang recruitment) so we can stay ahead of this game, so that no mom has to go to a funeral to bury their child," he said.

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