V-GAP begins major push against gangs

Sep. 30, 2013 @ 08:46 PM

Gangs have the attention of many people involved with many organizations in Vance County.

The Vance Gang Awareness Partnership is trying to build on that awareness and fight the criminal elements. Among the strategies are activities for the community’s youth, an approach often cited by leaders at Community Watch forums and at least as old as a 2010 gang assessment and information gathering process.

Already committed to help are law enforcement agencies, Vance County Schools and churches. The Raleigh Road Outdoor Theatre has stepped up among local businesses. More are expected and all are invited.

Kanika Turrentine is chairman of V-GAP, a subcommittee of the Juvenile Crime Prevention Council chapter for Henderson. It was formed as part of numerous strategy implementation steps recommended at the conclusion of the local grant-funded 2010 Gang Assessment Survey.

Turrentine is also CEO of Infinite Possibilities, Inc., which works with teens and single mothers.

“The recommendations of the assessment were used as a blueprint for reorganizing the crime prevention council’s old steering committee on gangs,” Turrentine said.

“All of us are coming together to come up with strategies how to work against the problem,” said Ralphel Holloman Sr. “We are strategizing against gangs in our community, how to keep our kids from joining gangs and keep kids safe from gang activity.”

Holloman is coordinator of the public school system’s dropout prevention program. He said V-GAP is just getting started as a major push partnering with law enforcement, community and business leaders to act against criminal gangs.

The order and dates of the events are still being developed. The series of events reaches out to South College, Orange, South Chestnut and Garnett street areas.

Two events are already scheduled, and only details need to be confirmed for a handful of others before Christmas.

On Oct. 10, the drive-in theater on Raleigh Road steps forward with a free family movie night. The movie is “Freedom Writers,” a 2007 major motion picture.

Turrentine said “Freedom Writers” puts on the big screen many elements of what students everywhere, including Vance County, are dealing with when gang pressures affect their ability to thrive in school.

More movies are expected.

“Each of these movies will have an anti-gang moral of the story,” Turrentine said. “Freedom Writers is a very popular movie. We’ll be showing these periodically through the year.”

Turrentine said that there is a cultural element beyond mere entertainment that she believes will open the doors of invitation a little wider for more people to feel encouraged to participate in the V-GAP programs.

At a Nov. 21 forum, for instance, there will be goodies, gifts, programs for youth and a dancing step team.

“We will be doing giveaways and special programs for youth, and we will have an entertaining step team,” Turrentine said. “Their steps take on a theme and a positive message.”

The forum will bring gang resource officers from the Vance County Sheriff’s Office and the Henderson Police Department together with a conference speaker from Gangs Across the Carolinas.

“We are waiting to confirm the place with the principal of Henderson Middle,” Turrentine said.

The focus will be broad for the first forum event. Then in December there are four forum gatherings each aimed for a more localized event and each planned at a different downtown church in order to bring a more focused discussion to targeted neighborhoods.

According to Turrentine, a series of church events comprising a faith-based initiative are riding on commitments from Shiloh Baptist, Spring Street Missionary and Davis Chapel Missionary Baptist churches plus First United Methodist Church.

The gang assessment project was funded by a $25,000 state crime prevention council grant. It was part of a statewide initiative involving more than 70 counties throughout North Carolina, according to the Department of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention.

 

Contact the writer at mfisher@hendersondispatch.com.