Community Leaders Attend Gang Prevention Seminar

By: Sarah Batista
By: Sarah Batista

August 16, 2005

Over 150 teachers, police officers and other law enforcement officials showed up at Albemarle High School for a day-long seminar on gang prevention.

"I think it's probably worse than people think it is," said Tim Heaphy of the U.S. Attorney's Office. "It's inconsistent with the image of the community that most of us have."

That's one of the main reasons why area school and law enforcement officials spent an entire day devoted to learning more on how they can help crack down on the city's gang activity.

"It's important to people that work with kids who are tempted by the lure of gang life to know what to look for, to have a sense of what's going on," said Heaphy.

The seminar focused mainly on gang trends and how local gangs affiliate themselves with national gangs, all useful information to people like Charlie Edwards, Superintendent of Blue Ridge Juvenile Detention Center. Edwards hopes by identifying who is most at risk for gang activity, he can somehow help to steer them away.

"[Signs, symbols,] different things that different gangs are doing are constantly changing. These sessions tend to update us to give us the additional information we need to be armed with to do our jobs," said Edwards.

Nowadays, younger people are becoming involved in gang activity. They're often influenced by a friend or family member. While Charlottesville is by no means saturated with gangs, it does have many homegrown gangs, people from the same neighborhoods who commit crimes. It's a problem that seminars like this one help bring to light.

"It raises everybody's awareness that this type of thing is on the increase, that's effecting our young people. A lot of people are sort of in denial about this issue, but hopefully this raises everybody's level of comprehension," said Heaphy.

Some of the warning signs that a child might be involved in gangs include the type and colors of clothing they wear, certain tattoos and graffiti on their notebooks.

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