Gang prevention spreads to classrooms - - Columbia, South Carolina

Gang prevention spreads to classrooms

(Richland County) August 15, 2006 - Many of those arrested in Sunday's bust of what is thought to have been a gang meeting were middle and high school age.

They're not just suspected gang members, they're also high school and middle school students.

The youngest arrested in the gang plot, according to Richland County Sheriff Leon Lott, was 13. That didn't surprise the sheriff because "that's your typical age, even less than that."

Investigators say gang members not only attended Columbia schools, one of the teens told officers the group was planning a fight at an Irmo High football game this Friday. It turns out there's no game scheduled.  

Sheriff Lott says the scare doesn't mean his department will increase security at other school events, "I don't think we'll need to add anything extra this Friday night because I think we stopped something from happening. We'll have what we normally have. Lexington County will be made aware of it, Irmo will be made aware of it."

Lexington County gang investigator James Richardson says resource officers will be at school events this weekend, as usual, "They're at every football game and a lot of time school districts ask for more officers to come and hang out."  

Richardson says throughout the year officers promote gang education, mainly in middle schools. Officers visit schools to promote the program, called GREAT. It stands for Gang Resistance Education and Training.

GREAT is not only taught in classrooms, it's applied. Students are given workbooks to fill out that come in both English and Spanish.

Officers show the clothes and the colors gangs wear, hoping students and staff will see the signs so they can help keep gangs out of their schools.

Reported by Angie Goff

Posted 6:00pm by Chantelle Janelle

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