By Joel Hall
Faced with concerns about loitering, home invasions, and undesirable teen activity, the City of Lovejoy is offering its residents a crash course on gang activity.
Starting this week, a free, six-week gang-education course will be available to parents and children on how to identify and help prevent gang activity before it happens.
For the next six Thursdays, Arthur Powell, a former gang enforcer and a noted speaker on gang prevention, will teach Lovejoy residents about the seriousness of gangs and what they can do about it.
The first class will be offered at the Lovejoy Community Center, located at 11622 Hastings Bridge Road, from 6:30 p.m., to 8 p.m. It is part of the city's "Neighborhood Helping Hands Initiative," a recent collaboration among the Lovejoy mayor and council, area schools, and neighborhood associations, to identify and solve present and potential problems. Tommy Green, a Lovejoy city councilman, said the initiative combines a neighborhood watch program with efforts by city schools to battle delinquency.
"We solicited neighbors to come out and talk to us about what is going on in their neighborhoods and try to come up with some solutions," said Green. "Basically, what they were seeing was the aimless hanging out, kids walking through their neighborhood that they didn't know, and we have seen a slight pick-up in some buglaries. What we found out in the meeting is that a lot of parents didn't know what they could do to help," he said.
Between the late 1980s and early 1990s, Powell was a member of the "I Refuse Posse," a notorious street gang in Southwest Atlanta, and from the early 1990s to early 2000s, served just over 11 years in prison for armed robbery.
Powell's six-week course will tackle several subjects, including "Gangs: The Truth," discussing the dangers of gang initiations and rivalries; "What is Representing Your Hood," which talks about the realities of 'tagging' and other territorial markings of gangs; "Snitching and Telling: Is there a Difference," which talks about an anti-snitching culture and its consequences; "People are Dying;" which discusses the human consequences of gang activity; "Prison: Modern Day Slavery," which talks about what life is like behind bars; and "Gangs: There is a Way Out," which discusses how to remove yourself from a gang situation.
Green said the course will help parents learn how to "start the conversation" with children, who may be leaning toward gang activity.
"We're really hoping that parents will come initially, and the final three weeks will be geared toward children," said Green. "A lot of times, there is a disconnect between older adults and children, and we want to bridge that gap."
Lovejoy City Councilwoman Rebekah Holland said the initiative is just another way the community can address crime on the front end.
"We know that gang activity is an issue in Clayton County, and we are just trying to be proactive and send a message that we are not going to put up with it," said Holland. "We are not just one group trying to make this happen, it is a community effort."