Church hosting gang prevention workshop

Published 10:38 pm Thursday, March 10, 2011

A local church is working toward a solution for the issue of gang violence.

Pleasant Union Baptist Church, 215 Webb St., will be host a “Gang Prevention Workshop” Saturday. It will include representatives from local public safety departments.

“This whole thing is about prevention,” said Felecia Anderson, director of children’s ministry at Pleasant Union Baptist Church and organizer of the event. “In order to prevent gang activity, you need to be aware of what’s in the city of Suffolk and the community you may live in.”

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Representatives from the Suffolk Police Department, Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office, Western Tidewater Regional Jail and the Suffolk Office on Youth will speak at the event and answer questions for parents and children.

“We are working together to help young people, not involved in gangs, and their parents to become more aware of gang activity in Suffolk,” Anderson said.

Speakers will present methods that gang members use to persuade kids to join them, the significance of colors, gang graffiti, the realities of jail, consequences of certain actions and more.

It is important to understand the significance of colors and how gangs use colors to distinguish themselves, Anderson said. If a child constantly wears a certain color, he or she might be mistaken for a gang member or as someone who wants to be involved in a gang.

“You don’t want to be mistaken for wanting to be a part of that,” she said.

Gangs typically target children and teenagers, offering them money and power. Kids want to be important, so this is a powerful incentive that gangs use to get kids involved.

“Children can be persuaded so easily,” she said.

One strategy that gang members use is to act like father figures to children whose fathers are absent or uninvolved. Gang members will act like they care for the youths and create a type of brotherhood that the kids want to be a part of.

Understanding the methods that gangs use can help parents and children better identify them, and make choices not to become involved in gang activity and violence.

Also at the event, speakers will present methods for encouraging children to steer clear of gangs.

The Suffolk Office on Youth will talk about positive community activities that students can be involved in and what they can do to better the community, while representatives from the regional jail will be talking about what happens in jail.

“This is something young people need to know,” Anderson said. “Gang violence is a very serious problem. Gangs persuade young people to get involved in something that won’t benefit them in life. That’s why it’s important for us to have this workshop.”

The event will be held at Pleasant Union Baptist Church on Saturday from 9:30 a.m. to noon. It is free and open to the public.