Conference addresses gang-related issues

Conference addresses gang-related issues
December 24
00:00 2015
Photo by Donna Rogers
Attendees listen to Rob Lang, assistant U.S. attorney for the middle district of North Carolina, as he speaks to attendees of the Community Awareness Networking Conference on Thursday, Dec. 17 at St. Peter’s Church & World Outreach Center.

By Donna Rogers

The Chronicle

Nonprofits and a division of the Winston-Salem Police Department (WSPD) are targeting youth at risk for joining gangs. They have developed action plans to help steer youth into productive activities.

The WSPD Gang Unit and various nonprofits met with the Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Gang Steering Committee (WSFCGSC) for a Community Awareness Networking Conference on Thursday, Dec. 17 at St. Peter’s Church & World Outreach Center. The conference was promoted as “an opportunity to collaborate with other nonprofit organizations to develop a family-oriented plan to reach at-risk youth and reduce recidivism.”

The WSFCGSC is looking for partners in its mission: to provide a multi-faceted, strategic problem-solving approach to address the gang-related issues facing the community.

“The whole purpose is to impact the community,” said Marcellette Orange, WSFCGSC chairwoman. She said the organization has four committees working on its mission. The organization wants to work on “how to meet community needs,” she said.

The attendees toured parts of the city, the Gang Unit made a presentation on the various gangs in Forsyth County, and an assistant U.S. attorney for the area urged cooperation among law enforcement, nonprofits, schools and government.

Sgt. Joseph Doss, Gang Unit supervisor, said that in 2008, there were 398 validated gang members in Forsyth County. As of last week, there were 1,360 validated gang members in the county. He said the increase could be attributed to the improved education of Gang Unit officers in validating gang members over the years, school resource officers in schools who can now validate gang members, and social media. He said most of the gang members in the county are Hispanic and African-American and are 17- to 21-year-olds.

Rob Lang, assistant U.S. attorney for the middle district of North Carolina, urged all attendees to work together to keep youth out of the criminal justice system and keep those who do enter from returning.

“There’re great possibilities for Winston,” said Lang, who has been working in the area for 20 years. “… We have all the pieces of the pie,” but problems arise when entities want to protect their turf.

“To do the prevention and intervention, we need you to work together,” Lang said.

Orange said the conference attendees developed three action plans that they will implement within three months. Then they will meet to assess how the implementation of the plans went.

The action plans are:

*Train WSFCGSC members in crisis intervention.

*Develop an art project involving young people to determine their needs.

*Canvass communities in person to determine what members of the communities need.

“Anything that deters young men and women from getting into that type of lifestyle is worth it,” said the Rev. Kenneth Holly of Whole Man Ministries, whose mission is to contribute to the development of people – body, mind and spirit. “I think it was big to come here to see what it takes to do this.”

David Moore of Southside Rides, which helps present and former convicts learn auto body shop skills, promoted unity among the organizations.

“We want to see all the organizations collaborate” instead of work on their own, he said.

Besides Whole Man Ministries and Southside Rides, nonprofits represented included Project Re-entry, which is part of the Piedmont Triad Regional Council; Goodwill; Eureka House; and Calvary Hill.

Besides the WSPD and WSFCGSC, the Center for Community Safety at Winston-Salem State University also sponsored the conference.

Mayor Pro Tempore Vivian Burke spoke at the conference, praising attendees.

“It’s such a delight to stand here to see people who volunteer to make a difference,” she said. “It takes all of us to make a difference in this city.”

For more information, contact Pam Peoples-Joyner of the WSPD at


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Donna Rogers

Donna Rogers

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