Good advice on gangs

Published 10:06 pm Thursday, February 11, 2010

The College Drive area of Suffolk is one of the city’s most promising communities in terms of the potential for development and growth of tax base. With at least two new neighborhoods under development and plans for thousands of square feet of new retail space, the area could become the next hot market in a city that has led the state in growth for most of a decade.

One major potential stumbling block, however, needs to be overcome: In the midst of its residential and retail growth, College Drive also has become a hotbed of North Suffolk gang activity. Clearly and understandably, businesses and homeowners both find that kind of presence unattractive and unappealing.

Aware of the need to arrest the spread of gang influences in North Suffolk, the Suffolk Police Department inaugurated a new Neighborhood Enforcement Team, to be headquartered in that part of the city. The effort mirrors a similar one headquartered downtown, which has focused on addressing the growing influence of gangs in the city’s core.

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To be sure, there are some real challenges facing the city in the College Drive area. One of the worst neighborhoods in Portsmouth, for example, is a short walk away, and the worst gang activity of both Newport News and Chesapeake are both separated from the area only by quick trips in a car.

Still, by introducing its new gang-intervention specialists during a public safety forum Tuesday night at Northern Shores Elementary School, the Suffolk Police Department took a positive step, showing its desire to be proactive in the community, rather than reactive.

But as Sgt. James Buie told the 100 or so folks who turned out to hear the presentation on gangs and the other troubles that often entice teens and young adults today, most of the responsibility for keeping kids out of trouble — and, by extension, helping to develop an appealing community in which to live and work — falls on parents.

“Don’t let the streets raise your kids,” Buie said. “Spend time with them.”

It’s good advice in North Suffolk. It’s good advice Downtown. And it’s good advice all across a nation that struggles against a gangster culture.