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Parents Urged to Watch for Signs of Gang Involvement

Cumberland County authorities and community leaders discussed ways to keep children safe from the danger of gangs.

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FAYETTEVILLE, N.C. — Fayetteville community leaders unveiled a TV public service announcement on Friday about gangs and urged parents to get more involved with their children's lives.

The message came at a meeting of the Cumberland Gang Prevention Project.

"Parents should be talking to their kid about gangs, just as they talk to them about sex, drugs, alcohol and tobacco," said Lt. Mark Bridgeman, a gang investigator at the Fayetteville Police Department.

Although they won't say how many gang members might be roaming the streets, they say they are recruiting children in elementary school and have been documented in middle and high schools throughout Cumberland County.

"You know, if you look at the overall population, the number of gangs is very very small," Bridgeman said. "However, it does generate a lot of concern."

Gang members are typically children who are failing in school, are not involved in extracurricular activities and need to feel a sense of belonging. Officials say children are being recruited to gangs through friendships and Internet sites such as Myspace.

They urge parents to enroll their children in church or school activities at an early age.

"We get to the kids while they're young," Fayetteville Interim Police Chief Tom Bergamine said Friday. "Then they get up to the older teen years -- it's not a problem."

Law enforcement officers say many parents have little or no idea their children are involved and urge parents to look for signs ,such as hand symbols, graffiti in the neighborhood and children's attraction to violent images.


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