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MACON, Georgia (41NBC/WMGT) – The number of gang members in Bibb County has gone down. The Bibb County Sheriff’s Office says the number went from 600 to 500 in just a couple of years, but deputies are still seeing gang violence in the area.
Gang investigators say me they have seen members as young as 9 years old and there are many circumstances that contribute to that. The main one the sheriff’s office and the Mentor’s Project agree with is, children have no where else to turn to.
“If you listen to the children, they’ll tell you all you need to know,” said June O’Neal. She has dedicated her life to helping children in need, as the executive director of the Mentor’s Project. It’s a program aimed to provide at-risk children with mentors.
“It’s so terribly important that children know they have personal cheerleaders in their lives,” said O’Neal.
O’Neal says not every child in Macon-Bibb County has one a personal cheerleader.
“If you don’t have a strong male role model at your house and if your mom is working 2 or 3 jobs or your grandmother or your aunt, doing the best that they can and they say ‘hey I need a mentor’ and the street calls their name,’ said O’Neal. “They’re going to provide new tennis shoes and a jacket, and they’re going to make sure you’re going to be safe walking to school.”
That is when children and teens are often attracted to gangs, according to the Bibb County Sheriff’s Office.
“Everybody wants to feel love, everybody wants to feel family and that’s how gang members recruit a lot of times. People think a lot of times are bullying you and say ‘hey if you don’t join now I’m going to jump on you’,” said Lt. Reginald Thomas with the Bibb County Sheriff’s Outreach Section.
Lt. Thomas says he has seen the trend and that’s why important for him and the outreach section, to provide teens with opportunities.
“It’s not going to work for everybody, but if we can save one or two, young man or young lady, and they can go get 20, because peers listen to peers,” said Lt. Thomas.
O’Neal and Thomas believe the number of gang members and crimes would reduce if people started showing that they care.
“If every church and every community would take on 5 children, there would be an amazing difference,” said O’Neal.
There are currently 66 children on the waiting list, waiting for a mentor. If you would like to learn more about The Mentor’s Project visit its website, www.mentorsprojectbibb.org/.
If you would like to learn more about how your child or someone you know can join the Bibb County Sheriff’s Outreach Section, call (478) 621-5677.