Aiken will discuss gang activity

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AIKEN - Parents and residents in Jackson will receive some answers concerning gang activity at an upcoming awareness meeting.

The Jackson Police Department and the Aiken County Sheriff's Office will give a presentation about warning signs of gang involvement Thursday evening at Jackson Middle School.

Jackson Mayor Todd Etheredge said the meeting is just a preventative measure.

"I'm not saying we have a gang problem here in Jackson, but we are trying to be proactive so we can identify the problems," he said.

The meeting comes two weeks after Aiken High School's second gang-related incident this year. A fight started among girls over gang colors worn on a shirt. Earlier this year, a gang initiation was recorded in a school bathroom.

"I don't think we're seeing a rise in girl recruitment, although nationally they are," said Capt. Wendell Hall, a spokesman for the Aiken Department of Public Safety. "Most of our problems are with males, especially if they are violent incidents."

The two incidents at Aiken High are the first that Principal Joe Padget said he has dealt with in his time at the school.

Jackson Middle School Principal Marc Funderburk said his pupils have some knowledge about gangs but that it is not a problem at the school.

"We are just helping promote the awareness and make the community and our schools safer," he said. "We don't have middle schoolers involved in gang activity, but we can educate them about how it can affect the community.

"We want parents to become involved and know what signs to look for to see if activity is part of the area," he said.

Mr. Etheredge and Mr. Funderburk said that although violence hasn't become a problem in the area, parents shouldn't think it won't happen.

"I just think you hear so much of it in the news and see so much of it in the newspaper, that it is just a matter of time before it gets in the smaller towns," Mr. Etheredge said. "We just want to stay one step ahead of any kind of activity."

Reach Julia Sellers at (803) 648-1395, ext. 106, or julia.sellers@augustachronicle.com.

AWARENESS MEETING

Where: Jackson Middle School gymnasium, 8217 Atomic Road

When: 6 p.m. Thursday

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