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Gang awareness program draws 200
Howard with parent
Hinesville police detective Tracey Howard talks to two people who attended a gang-awareness meeting Tuesday night at Snelson-Golden Middle School. About 200 attended the event. - photo by Photo by Andrea Washington
Despite heavy promotion, less than 200 people showed up for the community-wide gang-awareness meeting Tuesday night at Snelson-Golden Middle School.
The small gathering filled most of the SGMS lunchroom, but faculty members and officers from the Hinesville Police Department hoped there would be a stronger showing from the community.
“There are about 55,000 people in Liberty County,” HPD Chief of Detectives Maj. Thomas Cribbs told the crowd. “And how many are here tonight?”
The department has held several information sessions since publicly announcing there was a gang problem within the city — and county — this past August. Getting people to attend the meetings and creating community awareness, however, has been a problem Cribbs said last week.
“We try to offer education on the gang problem,” he said. “Sometimes we have good attendance, sometimes we don’t.”
Tuesday was proof of the latter.
For the concerned community members who did attend the meeting, the event was full of information that both shocked and educated them.  
One of the first issues Det. Doug Snider shed light on was the parallel growth between local gangs and drug activity in the area.
“The axiom is: if you have a drug problem you have a gang problem, if you have a gang problem you have a drug problem. That’s very correct,” Snider said. “I don’t know if y’all know it, but there are a lot of drugs in Liberty County. If you look around you’ll see it.”
Gang Intelligence Officer Detective Tracey Howard said a majority of the gangs in Hinesville are considered street-level organizations and noted most members come from decent backgrounds.
“This problem doesn’t just stretch into projects where gangster life came from. It stretches to all walks of life,” he said. “Predominantly in Hinesville it’s middle class and upper middle class homes and families.”
Cribbs also dispelled the myth that most gang members were “uneducated” or “unable to learn” by quizzing residents with letters and symbols from gang bibles.
According to the head detective, the images that confused the audience are easily learned and memorized by members.
"These are the kids who are supposed to have a low ability to learn," Cribbs said "But they're not dumb."
Attendees also received information on the gang hierarchy, the different levels of gang involvement, the growing number of girls drawn into gang activity and the influences that make these groups appealing to teens.
While disappointed by the low attendance, the officers said they do anticipate having more information sessions in the future.
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