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Ex-Gang Member Wants To Change Lives

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DURHAM — For months, city leaders have been looking for ways to deal with the rising problem of gang violence. Now, they are turning to someone who knows firsthand what gangs are all about. They have put an ex-gang member on the city's payroll.

Carlton Beaver was a member of the Crenshaw Mafia in Los Angeles, California. He started when he was 11 years old. His tattoos are not the only reminders of his years in a gang.

"Well, my experience was terrible -- getting beat in, getting beat up, being shot in the back four times, being stabbed a couple of times in the stomach," he says.

Now he wants to use his experiences to change the lives of troubled kids in Durham.

"These kids aren't all bad. They're good kids. They're talented kids. We just have to bring it out of them," he says. "I'm working with gang members to let them know if this kid wants to get out, leave him alone and let him do something else."

Part of the plan is for Beaver to partner with groups like the YMCA. The idea is to create outreach programs to get gangs off the street. When city leaders heard Carlton speak, they decided to bring him on board right away.

"For someone who's been out there on the front line, he can deal a whole lot more with the experience than I can think about," says Johnny Ford, director of the city's Parks and Recreation Department. "It's a good investment for the city."

Beaver was hired a month ago and is only working on a contractual basis right now. They hope to make him a permanent staff member soon.