Civic groups combat violence

Reginald Frazier, who says he is a former member of the Gangster Disciples, talks about protecting children from the lure of street life.
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Thirty-eight years old and locked up in state prison for the sixth time, Reginald Frazier said choices he made as a teenager - doing drugs and joining a street gang - wrecked his life.

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Sgt. Richard Roundtree, the executive director of Taking Back The Streets, said he hopes to earn federal grants for local civic organizations that they can use to help at-risk youths.  Michael Holahan/Staff
Michael Holahan/Staff
Sgt. Richard Roundtree, the executive director of Taking Back The Streets, said he hopes to earn federal grants for local civic organizations that they can use to help at-risk youths.

"I ain't gained nothing," he said, "but beat up, then lived in a prison for a few times, been on probation since I was about 11 years old."

His mother died when he was a baby, and Mr. Frazier said he joined the Black Gangster Disciples at age 15 while living with an aunt and uncle in Brooklyn, N.Y. He moved back to Augusta, hooked up with other members of the gang and became an "enforcer," dealing drugs, robbing and shoplifting to support his own drug habit.

"I've been worried about the wrong things all my life, it seems like," Mr. Frazier said during an interview last month at Rogers State Prison in Reidsville, Ga., where he served his most recent prison stint for theft by shoplifting. He has since been released.

"It's just time now to really grow up," he said.

At the start of the decade, organizations in Augusta dedicated to steering children and teens away from Mr. Frazier's fate were few, but that's hardly the case now.

A year after Sheriff Ronnie Strength sounded the alarm about the festering gang problem at an Augusta Commission work session, grass-roots efforts are under way to give alternatives to teens at risk of joining gangs, which is what experts say a community must do to curb youth violence.

Through a nonprofit called Taking Back the Streets, Richmond County sheriff's Sgt. Richard Roundtree, KISS-FM (96.3) radio personality Tim "Minnesota Fattz" Snell and the Rev. Larry Fryer want to create an umbrella organization for the civic groups in the area trying to get troubled teens into sports, after-school tutoring and mentoring programs.

Nineteen groups have come on board, ranging from the obscure to the well-established, said Sgt. Roundtree, the executive director. They include Boys & Girls Clubs of Augusta, Ounce of Prevention Services, Precious Jewels Youth Organizations, Fathers With a Purpose, Positive Women Taking Action, Positive Choice Enrichment and Mocha Sisters Organization of Augusta, among others.

About 300 people, including children, teens and parents, turned out at a Taking Back the Streets rally Saturday evening at May Park, across from the Richmond County Law Enforcement Center. Volunteers set up tables to pass out fliers and sign up program participants, while hip hop and R&B artists TK, Tiffany Evans, Montana and headliner Trey Songz performed.

Willie Battle, the president of Men Making a Difference, said that after an hour and a half he had found two prospects. His group, mostly Fort Gordon soldiers and retirees, mentors boys charged with crimes or on their way to committing crimes.

"It would be worth it even if we'd found just one," Mr. Battle said.

SGT. ROUNDTREE said he hopes Taking Back the Streets can not only organize large-scale events to give the groups exposure but also earn federal grants that can be dispersed to them.

"Every day I come to work, I could lock somebody up," said Sgt. Roundtree, a violent crimes investigator. "But that is not solving the problem, and we realize that.

"You have to give them alternatives. If you take something away from a child, you have to replace it with something."

This line of thinking follows the new wisdom of dealing with gangs. A study released in July by the Justice Policy Institute - a Washington, D.C. think tank dedicated to finding alternatives to incarceration - contends that billions of dollars spent on heavy-handed, gang-fighting law enforcement programs has been a waste, not only failing to solve the problem, but likely making it worse.

The Augusta area has an FBI-led CSRA Safe Streets Task Force, whose goal is to charge gang members with federal crimes so they do longer prison terms. The FBI raised its Augusta office's budget by $150,000 to $200,000 this year to fund the task force.

But cracking down on gangs through sweeps and tougher sentencing only increases their cohesion, argues the institute's report, Gang Wars: The Failure of Enforcement Tactics and the Need for Effective Public Safety Strategies.

"The gang survey literature makes it clear that these kids are not worried about risks," report co-author Kevin Pranis said. "They're not scared out of a gang by the prospect of another gang member shooting them. They're not going to be scared out by the prospect of being arrested."

Communities would do better to focus on the underlying social problems, Mr. Pranis said. They could stage interventions for youths getting involved in crime; use therapeutic approaches, involving parents when possible; expand after-school programs; and work to create more jobs in the community to alleviate poverty, he said.

"The truth is, it's just a bunch of stupid kids, though they may be involved in violence that you need to deal with," Mr. Pranis said. "You do good police work, but you also make an effort on the social services side."

Mr. Frazier said a lot of people might have good intentions in trying to keep children away from gangs - or talking them into leaving gangs - but it can be like a person who's never drunk alcohol or used drugs leading a rehabilitation group.

Teens at risk would do better to talk someone like themselves, Mr. Frazier said.

"Somebody who done been there, done that," he said. "Somebody who know how to talk to them, in the language that they know how to talk, and know what signs to look for, you know, in these kids when they're going in the wrong direction."

Parents, especially single parents, need to pay attention to what their sons and daughters are doing, he said.

"Because a lot of parents is too busy caught up in work," Mr. Frazier said. "You know, they got to work to be able to provide and stuff like that. And they really not paying attention.

"They think they be seeing, but they not seeing what they really need to see. They seeing what they want to see."

Reach Johnny Edwards at (706) 823-3225 or johnny.edwards@augustachronicle.com.

TEENS AND VIOLENCE

Richmond County sheriff's Sgt. Richard Roundtree said part of what led him to get involved with Taking Back the Streets was an inordinate number of homicides involving youth. In 2007, about half of the suspects in Augusta's homicides have been 18 or younger, he said. Among the violent incidents involving youth this year:


- On July 1, 24-year-old Nicholas Carpenter was shot to death at Club Platinum on North Leg Road. Denzel Ward, 17, has been charged with murder.


- On July 9, Stedmund Fryer, 18, was shot to death on the dance floor of Super C's nightclub on Tobacco Road, which was forced to close. Eighteen-year-old Darion A. McNair has been charged with murder in that case.


- In Aiken County, Morris Dorch, 19, is accused of killing Prince Shand Jr., 20, with an assault rifle early Wednesday. Arrest warrants have been issued for Mr. Dorch.

EFFORTS TO STOP THE VIOLENCE

Taking Back the Streets isn't the only group in the area working to keep youth safe.


Augusta State University Athletics Director Clint Bryant is forming a group aimed at stopping youth violence, Changing Attitudes Refocusing Efforts Commission. In April, he told The Augusta Chronicle the group will serve as a watchdog on the city's response to gang violence, pushing such measures as surveillance cameras in gang-infested neighborhoods and a hot line for parents. The Chronicle attempted to sit in on the group's meeting Wednesday at ASU's J. Fleming Norvell Golf House, but Mr. Bryant wouldn't allow it.


Another group, Full Circle Refuge, has held gang-awareness seminars at schools and churches since 2006. The ministry for juvenile delinquents, headed by Devon Harris, helps parents, teachers and youth workers understand gang culture and recognize warning signs.


You can call Sgt. Richard Roundtree at (706) 821-1014.

SEE THE PHOTOS

Check out more than 80 photos from the Taking Back The Streets rally at May Park on Saturday at spotted.augusta.com.

Comments (15) Add comment
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patriciathomas
42
Points
patriciathomas 09/16/07 - 06:52 am
0
0
As long as the symptom

As long as the symptom continues to be treated, the root cause will continue to produce kids at risk. Government giveaway programs teach these children that they don't need to be responsible for their actions because the safety net will catch them. When irresponsiblility is taught and reinforced at an early age, it's almost impossible to convince a child that their rights aren't being violated when they don't receive free food, free housing, spending money and health services and so they're justified in what ever action they take because of this perceived violation. It's easy for them to feel mistreated and shunned when they don't have the benefits of a strong family base. From this point on, especially with no parenting or bad parenting, bad decisions are easy. Ignorance is easy. Crime is easy. It's the root that needs to be addressed, not the symptoms.

TakeAstand
13
Points
TakeAstand 09/16/07 - 08:40 am
0
0
Well said patricia!

Well said patricia!

RainInGa
0
Points
RainInGa 09/16/07 - 10:46 am
0
0
Has anyone done the

Has anyone done the statistics?? I believe that the "root" isn't the "free..., free...", but I do agree that parenting plays a key role, as well as a lack of alternative activities for youth. A good portion of the kids involved in gangs and violence aren't benefitting from "free..., free..." The Taking Back the Streets program is a good first step. To prevent the continuing problem, the community needs to start now with parenting education programs such as the Parents as Teachers program. Aggressive action for todays young people and children combined with aggressive action aimed at the parents of the children not yet born may cause positive outcomes. These educational programs have proved to be successful in other areas of the United States. Education is the global key--and there are too many undereducated people in the CSRA.

dani
12
Points
dani 09/16/07 - 10:54 am
0
0
I am glad to see that SOMEONE

I am glad to see that SOMEONE out there is trying to make a difference. The parents who defend the defiance in their children and blame others for everything that happens and that doesn't teach them to take responsibilty for their own actions is hard to combat.

Rose
17
Points
Rose 09/16/07 - 12:37 pm
0
0
Sgt. Roundtree is looking

Sgt. Roundtree is looking more and more like sheriff material. His actions say he really cares about people.If he ever runs for sheriff, he will have my vote. Only 300 people showed up for the rally.that is a start, but it should have been thousands there.

mystery30815
18
Points
mystery30815 09/16/07 - 02:56 pm
0
0
These groups need to work

These groups need to work more with the junior high and high schools. The teachers are the ones who see these kids day in and day out. Particularly the ones at risk. But, the schools don't want to be involved in that kinds of stuff. Then they might have to admit they have gang problems at their school.

iletuknow
8
Points
iletuknow 09/16/07 - 03:09 pm
0
0
Divine intervention is the

Divine intervention is the only possibility left.

BakersfieldCityLimits
1
Points
BakersfieldCityLimits 09/16/07 - 04:01 pm
0
0
I guess all the activity in

I guess all the activity in the motel on his break time has been forgiven.

As It Is
2
Points
As It Is 09/16/07 - 06:14 pm
0
0
What an excellent start for

What an excellent start for our community. We need to involve civic organizations, business owners, law enforcement, schools, teachers and of course parents along with all of our at risk youth. If we would place our efforts on prevention we wouldn't have to spend as much on arrests and incarceration. Placing individuals in jail costs the tax payers over $40,000.00 per year per person and yet we spend only $7,000.00 to educate our youth per year. Once incarcerated, the chances of recividism are greatly increased thus resulting in additional thousands of dollars being spend on the individuals not to mention was has to be done to help the victims. No matter what we do, there will alwyays be those we can't reach and law enforcement intervention along with jail is our final resort - but that is what is should be, our final resort. And, Patricia is right in the fact that enabling our youth and even out adults through free government programs to include free food, housing, money, health care, etc. has allowed them to have excuses for everything and sit back and let the government take care of them. We must teach persoanl responsibility and acountability along with a good edcuation.

oldenuff2nobetter
0
Points
oldenuff2nobetter 09/16/07 - 06:38 pm
0
0
Legalize drugs and that takes

Legalize drugs and that takes 90% of the crime off he street.

oldenuff2nobetter
0
Points
oldenuff2nobetter 09/16/07 - 06:44 pm
0
0
What other illegal activity

What other illegal activity do gangs participate in? Our society will always have people who are dependant on the governent, but that does not breed criminals. The drug culture is the root of the problem.

crackerjack
150
Points
crackerjack 09/16/07 - 06:49 pm
0
0
Legalize carrying concealed

Legalize carrying concealed weapons and it will take 100% of crime off the streets, and help the business community as well.
"Funeral Homes"

crackerjack
150
Points
crackerjack 09/16/07 - 06:52 pm
0
0
No Education=Hard Work and

No Education=Hard Work and low pay
Selling Drugs and Robbery= Easy Money and High Pay

Do The Math!

FallingLeaves
27
Points
FallingLeaves 09/16/07 - 09:21 pm
0
0
What took so long? I've been

What took so long? I've been reporting these activities since 1999. I didn't called them gangs, I called them groups of children and teens and their parents and then reported what they were doing. I guess I was too nice about it and wasn't taken seriously enough. Much of what I reported was diminished or disregarded. I have nightmares trying to figure out why. I have nightmares thinking of the things that happened because the problems were not addressed. Now the trouble has grown exponentially throughout the county. Some of the key figures are in jail now, but they have left lava-like ripples of destruction and chaos that are not dormant When the heated magma cools, the trouble is going to be harder to deal with than hardened lava fields. I am glad these problems are being recognized, but it wasn't addressed until something I predicted would happen, happened. Anybody who cares about Augusta and has been paying attention will either already know or figure out what I'm talking about.

bone
23
Points
bone 09/16/07 - 09:33 pm
0
0
love to know what D1216 wrote

love to know what D1216 wrote earlier. i agree with PT regarding the importance of addressing gov't dependence issues in the community, but i believe that youth need guidance to find alternatives to the street life. this program sounds great and i hope it is a success.

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