Gang awareness forum Tuesday

Published 10:20 pm Friday, January 23, 2009

All the parents, grandparents and community leaders who need to know more about gang activity will want to attend the gang awareness forum.

The meeting, being held Jan. 27 from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. at King’s Fork Middle School, is open to the public and admission is free. The forum is hosted by Suffolk Commonwealth’s Attorney C. Phillips “Phil” Ferguson and the Suffolk Police Department’s Neighborhood Enforcement Team.

Prosecuting gang activity is Ferguson’s No. 1 priority, said Karen Williams, community outreach coordinator for the Office of the Commonwealth’s Attorney.

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“The purpose behind the forum is to be educational and to be interactive with the community,” Williams said.

During the forum, residents will be able to watch an anti-gang video produced by Attorney General Bob McDonnell. The video is a documentary exploring the real nature of gangs in Virginia, and what communities can do to fight back against the violent nature of gangs. Following the video, Suffolk police will present information on actual gang activity in Suffolk, and how the perpetrators are being punished.

Following the presentations, a panel of experts from the police department, probation officers, school officials, religious leaders, the Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office, and other people in the city who deal with youth will answer questions from the audience.

Williams said Ferguson has been talking about doing an event like a gang awareness forum for a long time. Education is an essential part of gang prevention, Williams said.

“Hopefully we can give enough information to the parents and grandparents and the children,” she said. “(They should) understand about the gangs and know what to do if they are approached, and who to go to, and that it’s OK to call the Suffolk Police Department and that they will come out and help you.”

For more information on the forum, call 514-4379.