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Greenville police launching new teen gang prevention programs

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GREENVILLE, N.C. -

Greenville police are launching two new programs to protect your children from gang recruitment.

Police Chief Hassan Aden says he considers gangs and the criminal activity that comes with them to be one of the top threats to public safety.

He says there are two types of gangs in the city: dangerous neighborhood-based groups, and traditional gangs such as the Bloods, Cripps and Gangster Disciples. Widen it out to Pitt County and there are 18 gangs that make up part of the 650 gangs state-wide.

Chief Aden says their violent activities are concentrated to small segments of the city, but says their influence is strong, especially among teenage boys looking to fit in with a crowd that promises them safety.

"The other reason is acceptance, caring, love, all of which is false," he says. "But that's what they offer. And it's a very seductive process to bring someone into a gang."

Chief Aden says absent parents, trouble in school and tough economic times also contribute to a teenager joining a gang.

To combat the problem, he plans to launch two new programs this fall that will provide at-risk teenagers with mentors from the police department.

"We are in September unveiling a new program which is a Youth Citizens Police Academy," he says. "That has not been done here in the city. Through our SROs, we're going to find groups of 20 kids to go through a 10 week program in which they learn about the police department, what we do, and why we do certain things."

"I believe that will also install some protective factors and create some relationships and some mentoring environments which can aid them in making the right decisions."

Chief Aden says he hopes to launch the second plan this fall, as well. It will be based on a Milwaukee crime prevention program that assesses at-risk teens in a similar manner.

He says the initiatives will not increase taxpayer money. Instead, he plans to pay for them with funds already budgeted to the department and federally-seized drug money.

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