Anti-gang programs try to keep others from Denkins' path
Posted March 7
Raleigh, N.C. — The life and recent death of Akiel Denkins shined a new spotlight on the issue of gangs in Raleigh. Sources told WRAL News that he was a known gang member.
Denkins was wanted on drug and probation violation charges when he was spotted on Bragg Street in south Raleigh by Officer D.C. Twiddy. Denkins fled, Twiddy gave chase and, according to the police report on the incident, Denkins reached for a gun before Twiddy shot him four times.
For law enforcement officers and concerned members of the community, prevention of lives cut short starts with redirecting young people, often male, from the path that leads to criminal activity.
"They are looking for someone to pay them attention. That is why they join gangs," said Wake County Sheriff Donnie Harrison. "They've got a bond. They've got somebody they can talk to. They've got someone they can share things with. But with their home life, they can't do that."
Harrison said he separates Wake County Detention Center inmates from rival gangs for their safety.
Haven House Services, in Raleigh, tries to keep at-risk youth out of jail through a safe space and opportunities to succeed.
"We run 12 programs for at-risk youth, including an after-school program that helps keep young people off the street," said Patricia Cardoso with Haven House. "They all need opportunities. They all need support. They need the skills, the tools, to navigate whatever life throws their way."
If someone is in a gang, the program asks that they check their colors, signs and symbols at the door.
"We want this place to be a safe space that is available and open to all kids in the community," Cardoso said.
But many in the Bragg Street community said, right now, gangs are not their issue or focus.
"I've only heard about the gangs," said Bishop Darnell Dixon of Bible Way Temple. "I've never had any negative interaction with the gangs."
Mutota, who lives nearby, pointed out that anti-gang programs are doing little for Denkins.
"All of the programs right now in the world that you talk about won't be any good if you're dead," he said.
According to Frank Perry, state secretary of public safety, the number of gangs and members in North Carolina are growing. Perry told lawmakers last month that there are 314 active gangs in the state, including groups actively seeking to overthrow the government.
In North Carolina prisons, Perry said about one out of every seven inmates has a gang connection.