Monday night, three Duval School Board members held a forum to try to help people identify the signs of gang violence.
Concerned neighbors met at a church on the northwest side of Jacksonville to talk about how to help kids in their community.
At Zion Hope Baptist Church on Edgewood Avenue, a crowd of about 40 people have gathered to talk about violence. Community organizer Mickee Brown is explaining why some kids join gangs.
Brown said, “For a kid with a jacked-up life, wearing jacked-up clothes, in a jacked-up community, going to a jacked-up school, gang life looks pretty great. It looks awesome.”
Brown says she’s not an expert, but she knows enough to urge tonight’s attendees to take action. For one, admit when your neighborhood has a problem. And, most importantly, report gang activity to police.
Detective Jeffrey Shouse is the only Duval Schools police detective dedicated to gang prevention. He says the most common age for a kid to join a gang is somewhere between 13 and 15, and according to his count there are 43 known gang members in Duval County schools.
Youth advocate Renata Hannans says she thinks the number is actually higher. But she says, in her experience, gang activity isn’t as organized as it is in movies.
“You’re cliqued up your from the neighborhood, and then when you fight, it goes to the extreme,” Hannans said. “Then we end up shooting and ultimately killing each other and retaliating back and forth.”
Demetrius Nelson says he’s seen warning signs in his own students. He teaches fifth grade at West Jacksonville Elementary.
Nelson said, “Now they’re trying to get a concept of who they are and who they can be and what they want and what they need.”
But he says he tries to build a family for his students, so they don’t end up in a gang at 13.