SAW 2010 Rally

By: Keith Jones Email
By: Keith Jones Email

According to SAW 2010, an anti-gang coalition, there are more than 150 gang members in based around Augusta County.

Local police estimate that there are nearly 100 additional associate gang members. The majority of these are made up of young individuals ranging between the ages of 15 and 21. Marta Szuba of SAW 2010 says the statistics are too high

"These numbers are alarming," says Szuba. "What we can do is we need to create a community where we're not allowing these kids to go into these gangs, one that they're attached to, one that they feel they're valued in."

Szuba says gang prevention within the community only works if the entire community is involved. Flocks of people came out to a SAW 2010 rally in Staunton Friday night to do just that. More than 250 community members, young and old, came out to say enough is enough, the Valley is no place for gang violence.

"It's going to bring the reality. The reality of what it means to be in a gang right to your face," says Diane Kellogg of SAW 2010. "There's gang activity. You can't ignore it. It's here."

By bringing together the community, Kellogg hopes that residents see the effects that gangs like the "Bloods," "Crips," "MS-13" and other homegrown gangs have on the community.

"It takes the young, it takes the old to become active as a community and to bond together to help our families and help our kids," says Kellogg.

According to SAW 2010, there are increasing cases of younger children becoming involved in gang activity. These include late elementary and early middle school aged children.

"Once they get to me, it's too late," says U.S. Attorney John Brownlee.

He says typically when they convict young people for gang and drug related crimes, they go away for a long time.

"Since 2001 there have been three gang-related murders in the whole western district of Virginia," says Brownlee. "So yes, I think it's fair to say that there is some elements of gang activity in this community."

He also says it's important the community comes together to step in and identify gang activity.

Brownlee says, "Gangs do violent crime, they sell drugs, they do property crimes, and it can deteriorate an entire community."

Brownlee says in order to go forward, family members, teachers, and churches need to be taught what to look for to prevent gang involvement. He says if the community steps in before law enforcement does, they're doing their job.


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