Entire community must get involved to keep gangs from getting foothold

Tue, 01/08/2008 - 4:52pm
By: Letters to the ...

Fayette County, we have a problem. The article, “FCHS student arrested for gang activity” on The Citizen website Jan. 3, 2008, should come as no surprise to Fayette County citizens.

From 1980 to 1985, I commanded the Detroit Police Department’s Youth Crime Section (Gang Squad), and I served on the Detroit Public Schools’ School Security Committee.

As a result of my work with delinquent youths, I have noticed that youth gangs have been attempting to form in Fayette County for quite some time.

The warning signs have been there, but the community has not been mobilized to appropriately respond to the problem.

Many of us have seen the occasional posting of graffiti on buildings. We have noticed increasing incidents of youths acting in concert to commit delinquent acts and crimes, such as the robberies along golf cart paths in Peachtree City or marauding youths robbing and assaulting citizens in Fayetteville.

The fact that our youths are committing delinquent acts (crimes) while accompanied by their peers is not unusual. The typical delinquent operates in the company of his or her peers, and delinquency thrives on group support.

In the past, it has been estimated that between 60 and 90 percent of all delinquent acts are committed with companions. That fact alone makes youth groups (gangs) a central concern in consideration of delinquency prevention.

Some people mistakenly think that youth gangs only form in economically depressed areas. Gang behavior is also appealing to youths in affluent areas such as Fayette County.

Right now our gangs are in the formation stage or “wannabes” stage. If proper steps are not taken to quickly eradicate this behavior, they will continue to grow and become a serious problem in the community.

In 1976, when our current sheriff was elected, Fayette County’s population stood at approximately 28,000 residents. Criminals seldom crossed Ga. Highway 138. Today, more than 105,000 residents live in the county.

In 1997, my wife Patricia and I moved here because of our excellent schools and great quality of life. The influx of new residents has also attracted hundreds of new businesses to the area. Fayette County is now a thriving, healthy, and culturally diverse community. Each day thousands of visitors travel to Fayette County to shop at our retail stores.

Unfortunately, one of the downsides to the expansion of retail businesses has been that they have also attracted criminals to the county.

You may recall the 2002 robbery at the Ingles Supermarket, on Ga. Highway 92, when fleeing robbers killed a motorist on Easter Sunday, or the 2005 armed robbery of the Tinseltown Theater. Armed robberies of businesses in the county are becoming routine events.

In order to protect our community and preserve our way of life, strong enforcement programs must be immediately initiated to deter criminal activity in our county. Additionally, our citizens must be trained in how to avoid being a victim of crime.

Crime prevention is the recognition, anticipation, and avoidance of a crime risk. Residents must be trained in how to break the “Triangle of Crime.”

On July 15, 2008, the voters of Fayette County will be asked to elect a new sheriff. The next leader of the Sheriff’s Department must have the skill, experience, training, and education to do the job. The next sheriff will not have time for “on the job training.”

On Nov. 30, 2007, I announced my candidacy for the Republican nomination for sheriff. When I am elected sheriff, I will use my experience, training, and education to serve all the citizens of our great county. I will aggressively work to enforce our laws, and do everything in my power to preserve our way of life. I will work to ensure that Fayette County is a safe place to live, work, and own a business.

Please join me in the fight to preserve our way of life. Community involvement is key to resolving the current problems we face in our community.

Community involvement must include all community members — senior citizens, teens, parents, children, business owners, executives, police, and government leaders, and most importantly, our religious leaders. By working as a “TEAM,” “Together Everyone Achieves More.”

On Jan. 22, 2008, at 7 p.m., The Committee to Elect Dave Simmons Sheriff will host a “Meet the Candidate” event at the New Whitewater Creek Community Center, located at 165 Birkdale Drive, Fayetteville, GA 30215.

If you are interested in learning more about what you can do to prevent crime in our community and deter gang activity, please plan to attend the event.

To learn more about my candidacy, or volunteer to work on the campaign or to make a contribution, please visit my website at http://www.simmonsforsheriff.org. I can be contacted by email at dsimmons@simmonsforsheriff.org or by phone at 770-716-9088.

Dave Simmons, CPP

2008 Republican Candidate for Fayette County Sheriff

Fayetteville, Ga.

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