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GANGS: How to beat 'em

In 2006, Rock Hill Police considered this graffiti on a Green Street building on Green Street to be the work of gang members.
In 2006, Rock Hill Police considered this graffiti on a Green Street building on Green Street to be the work of gang members.

Parents who feel clueless can get the "4-1-1" on gangs this weekend, and their children can learn how to stay away from or get out of gangs.

"Beat the Streets," a gang awareness conference sponsored by YouthNet, the Rock Hill school district and other community and faith-based organizations, will be held Friday and Saturday at the Baxter Hood Center at York Technical College.

The first day will have sessions geared toward adults, and the second day will be useful for children in their middle school and high school years, as well as their parents.

"Over the course of time, we kept hearing about the gang issue," said Antoine Knox, public information coordinator for YouthNet, a community initiative that works to address the needs of emotionally disturbed children and their families.

"So, we decided, why don't we put on a free conference in order to, one, make the community aware of the issue and also educate the community, and lastly, to create resources for these kids so we can not just tell them, 'You can't be in gangs and tell them to stop (when) they would have nothing to do."

The conference will cover topics such as gangs in schools, graffiti, gangs and the Internet, gang prevention and intervention techniques. So far, about 200 people have signed up, Knox said.

The idea is to give people the information they need to know about gangs and also to direct them toward resources that can help.

The S.C. Department of Mental Health, OASIS, the National Alliance on Mental Illness, Weed and Seed Urban Rock Hill, Rock Hill Police and the Chester County Sheriff's Office are among the major partners who helped put the conference together.

Tim Ayers, a Rock Hill Police detective, said conferences such as this one are important because they allow different agencies to come together and share ideas about how to deal with gangs with each other and the public.

"We can't arrest away the problem," he said, adding that many gang members are 15- to 17-year-olds. "You're not going to lock all these kids up, and if you do, all you're doing is giving them a better education in gang life in the jails. We've got to come up with alternatives."

WANT TO GO?

• What: "Beat the Streets" gang awareness conference

• When: Friday and Saturday

• Where: Baxter Hood Center at York Technical College

• Cost: Free

• Registration: Register in advance by calling 366-3391 or register at the conference from 8 until 8:45 a.m. Friday, and from 9:15 to 10 a.m. Saturday

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