Blackville leaders and parents continued the momentum of the packed Sept. 10 crime public forum with an information session Sept. 18.
About 20 people gathered in the Blackville Community Center for the session led by Councilwoman Vivian Alston. Speakers talked about gangs, crime and the need for parents to get involved with their children.
Citizens expressed their concerns about the community and asked questions about several issues, including late-night partying, gangs, violence and law enforcement.
Investigator Brenda O'Berry with the Barnwell County Sheriff's Office spoke about gang characteristics.
She said three things that make gangs function are drugs, guns and money. She urged parents to be proactive.
"If you see it, address it," she said.
When parents asked if there are gangs in Blackville, O'Berry said yes. She told the audience that gangs are a problem in town, but they are not isolated to single communities. She said gangs are organized and have networks that cross county and state lines.
O'Berry also said parents can counteract negative influences by taking pride in their kids. "Support them; take part in what they're doing," she said.
She said parents need to know about their kids' friends. "Know who your kids are with," she said.
Linda McCormick, of the Polly Best Center, spoke about young parents raising children.
She said it's not easy for young parents and some of them are ill-prepared.
"Young parents need help" raising children, McCormick said.
She said parents have to be focused and disciplined when raising kids. She said there has to be authority in the home.
Councilman Steve Jowers talked about the positives of having neighborhood watch groups throughout the community. He said people need to take charge of their neighborhoods if they want to see change.
"You have got to get involved" to stop crime, he said.
Residents expressed a need for more police in town. The town currently employs six officers.
Town Administrator Ian Kaiser said it's a matter of money when it comes to hiring more officers.
Kaiser said people need to call police dispatch when they see a problem or if there is a loud party going on late at night. He said there is a 10 p.m. curfew during the week for people 16 and younger. The curfew is 11 p.m. on Saturdays, he said.
Councilwoman Alston said she was happy that people came out, but she said she wants more people getting involved.
"We all must be here because we want to see a change," she said.
The group plans to meet again Oct. 2 at 6 p.m. at the community center, but the date and time could change.
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