Gangs in the Midlands: Keeping your child safe starts at home

Gangs in the Midlands: Keeping Your Child Safe Starts at Home

COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - The Richland County Sheriff’s Department and Midlands school districts are working together to make sure your kids don’t fall into gang-related activities, or other dangerous groups.

Officials said they’re trying to do their part to protect your children, but it all starts at home.

“It’s,‘I want to be a part of something. I want to be a part of a group. I want to be a part of somebody that will listen to me,’” Sgt. Terrance Acox of the sheriff’s department said. “These days, it’s not about if a kid is coming up in a bad neighborhood. It’s happening in the good neighborhoods as well. A lot of times, the parent’s aren’t spending enough time with the kids, so they just want somebody that’s going to listen to them.”

That’s why the sheriff’s department and local school districts are teaming up to make sure your children aren’t lured in by gangs or groups with a gang mentality.

So what can you look out for? Law enforcement officials said warning signs include: changes in behavior, violence, disrespect or defiance at home or school, and coming home at odd hours.

Richland School District 2 leaders said they’ve expanded mentor programs and have increased school resource officer engagement, but they need parents to keep an eye out as well.

“An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure,” said James Manning from the Richland 2 school board. “It doesn’t matter what your zip code is, it doesn’t matter how big your home is, how small your home is, where you are. It can happen to anybody. Our youth are impressionable and we have to pay attention to what our young folks are doing.”

Law enforcement officials said this isn’t just about real-life peers. It’s just as important to take a look at who your kids are chatting with online on social media to make sure they aren’t falling into dangerous activities.

The Richland County Sheriff’s Department offers a program called the Youth and Parent Empowerment Academy to help put kids on the right path while also working with parents to create a healthy and supportive environment at home.

You can get more information on that program and more by calling the sheriff’s department at 803-576-3000, and asking for the Youth Services Division.

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