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G.R.E.A.T. summer camp teaches gang prevention

Along with swimming and bowling, activities at a summer camp run by Durham police include learning about the criminal justice system and how to deal with social pressures.

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DURHAM, N.C. — Police hope that a two-week summer-camp experience will help around 100 children learn about the criminal justice system and how to deal with social pressures.

Campers at the G.R.E.A.T. Summer Camp visited a youth detention center and juvenile court to teach them about the tough realities of the justice system.

"Once you get involved in the court system, they aren't going to sugarcoat it, so we are trying not to either," Sgt. J.L. Jackson said.

The police department's Gang Resistance Education and Training unit started the camp as an extension of its program in schools. This year's two sessions in June and August are full, with youths 11 to 14 years old.

Five years ago, police added gang prevention to the camp's agenda. Officers said they had seen signs of gang activity among children as early as second grade.

"We try to give them alternatives to that early," Jackson said.

Camper Briana Snipes said she knows boys in gangs.

"If you want to get out, the people in a gang will either kill you or fight you to get out," Briana said.

Guest speakers gave campers lessons on character building, resisting gangs and avoiding drugs.

"We learned that you just say, 'no,' in a firm voice, and then you walk away," Briana said.

Campers also learned about the criminal justice system – law enforcement, courts, the penal system and "what the death penalty is and stuff like that," camper Michael Walkowe said.

Officers said they hope the campers learned about more than the technical aspects of the justice system and took home lessons about what can keep them out of trouble.

"I just know the consequences and things like that," Michael Walkowe said.

Campers also got to visit an IMAX theater, Marbles Kids Museum, historic Stagville and Falls Lake and do some traditional summer-camp activities – swimming, roller and ice skating, and bowling.

Briana said the camp has given her a vision of a different way things could be.

"It's just a lot of violence going around," Briana said. "I would like it better if there were no violence."



Erin Hartness, Reporter
Geof Levine, Photographer
Anne Johnson, Web Editor

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