Just as Department of Juvenile Justice Director Bill Byars was making his case to legislators that gang prevention should a budget priority, the Spartanburg County Sheriff’s office was dealing with how the issue hits home.
Deputies are investigating the threats made by members of a gang towards a mother and her son when her son wanted to leave the gang.
Spartanburg County Sheriff’s Office reports that two brothers along with a third male juvenile made threats of bodily harm to the victim and her son.
Tony Ivey with the Spartanburg County Sheriff’s Office says,”These arrests basically came to our attention as a result of a parent contacting us and then we put our gang ‘folks’ working on this, and found that the suspects on this had been threatening, not only to our complainant, which happens to be an adult, but also, their child, who had joined up with this gang.”
Ivy spoke regarding the difficulty and dangers of a member wanting to pull out of a gang. “Once people get into a gang, and if they decide that that type of activity is not anything that they want to continue in, getting out of a gang is made very difficult by the existing gang members. They try to do this through physical violence, also through threats of violence against the gang member’s family or extended family and friends.”
The Spartanburg Sheriff’s Office encourages those with gang problems or information to ask for help. “We’re receptive. We’re open. If you’re having this kind of problem, or aware of this type of problem, we want to know about it. We want you to contact us because we’re going to take your information, we’re going to keep it confidential. But, we’re going to work on it. We’re going to work on it aggressively.”
DJJ Director Bill Byars says a lack of prevention programs is giving gangs time to recruit and grow stronger. A survey released by the State Education Department shows nearly one in 10 high school students are in a gang. Broken down by race and gender, one in five black males said last spring they were in a gang. Byars said kids join gangs for money and security.
Budget cuts forced his agency to close job training and placement programs, and stopped plans for anti-gang teams to work with youth.