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Bulloch hopes to crack down on local gangs
Gangs in Bulloch County? Possibly. That's why the Bulloch County Board of Education is teaming up with law enforcement and other agencies in sponsoring a panel discussion tonight about gangs and related activity.
    Karen Manahan, alternative education director for Bulloch County schools, said there have been indications that gangs have been making themselves known in the community.
    "I deal quite a bit with alternative school students (students who for behavioral or other issues have been removed from regular public schools as a disciplinary move) and we are seeing more gang signs ... gang activity," she said.
    Some juvenile students have been arrested for gang activity-related crimes, she said. And the students involved are not just wanna-be gangsters, but are dabbling in true gang-related acts.
    "We have elements of the real thing," Manahan said. "They (local incidents) are not as serious as we generally connotate with gang activity,  but they are not just imitations."
    Tonight's discussion, open to the public, is "more or less a community meeting" seeking input form citizens, but "we've seen some activity and indications  that there are some gangs attempting to form" in the city, said Statesboro Police Chief Stan York.
    "When you find a little smoke, there may be a fire," he said. "We don't want to be ostriches and put our heads in the sand."
    The gang signs seem to be limited to the city, said Bulloch County Sheriff Lynn Anderson. "There has been no indication of gang related activity (in the county outside of city limits) except for the occasional graffiti on Dumpsters, and then it is more ugliness than gangs.  We might have a group that wants to  try to be (gang members) but we just don't get any (gang-related incidents)."
    But knowing the possibility is there, the Bulloch County Sheriff's Department has joined the Statesboro Police Department, Bulloch County Board of Education, Bulloch County Drug and Alcohol Council, Willingway Hospital and the Department of Juvenile Justice in support of tonight's discussion as a proactive move, he said.
    Officials have noticed a trend in growth regarding gang-related activities, including "tags" or graffiti, tattoos and clothing - "showing of colors and especially the way the clothing is worn," Manahan said.
    And the evidence points not only to imitation of what teens see on television and in the movies, but what outsiders are bringing into the community.
    People from New York and other large cities in the country visit the area and bring ideas and connections with them, York said. "Outsiders bring some of this influence in, and we need to be aware of it."
    The panel discussion, featuring Georgia Southern University criminal justice professor Dr. Sharon Tracy, will be held at 6 p.m. tonight in the cafeteria of the William James Educational Complex on Williams Road.
    For more information call Manahan at 764-1657.
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