In the next month, the Richmond County School Safety Department is looking to start an initiative aimed at gangs in schools.
The effort will include workshops for parents and administrators. It will coordinate the department with the Richmond County Sheriff's Office to better track which schools might have students who have been arrested outside of class in gang-related cases.
"We're in the planning phases right now," said school safety Lt. Richard Roundtree, noting that times and locations for the first parent workshops are being firmed up. "We're going to try to put them at different schools throughout the county. We want the parents to be involved and aware of what's going on."
Roundtree said his department already visits middle schools and some elementary schools warning students about the dangers of gangs.
He said the new workshops will teach how to know whether a child or student might be in a gang and how to keep them out.
"A lot of times parents just don't know," Roundtree said.
The initiative follows the death of Butler High student Brandon Desean Taylor, 16, who was fatally shot on Monte Carlo Drive last month. Authorities arrested three youths and charged them with gang activity in that case, saying the arrests were part of a larger investigation that had identified at least 50 people who could face gang-related charges.
"Because of these recent events, we've been flooded with calls from parents wanting this information," Roundtree said. He couldn't pinpoint any specific schools with gang issues, but he said his department hopes to do so through greater coordination with the sheriff's office.
"We're going to start tracking gang activity within our schools," he said.
In general, Roundtree said, middle schools often become recruiting grounds for gangs.
Richmond County sheriff's Maj. Ken Autry said he didn't have an exact percentage, "but a large number of the people we've identified in gangs are of school age."