LAURINBURG — An agency that already helps at-risk young people in Scotland County will launch a new program to combat youth gangs in October.
Scots for Youth currently works with young people ages 6-16 through community services, restitution and mentoring, Crumroy said. Children are referred to the agency through the court system and through school resource officers.
Marty Crumroy, community service restitution coordinator for Scots for Youth, said the agency was approved for a two-year grant in June that will help fund the program designed to get young people out of gangs.
“It goes anywhere from fighting in school, that’s usually the lesser charges that we get and goes all the way up to breaking and entering, weapons possession,” Crumroy said.
Now it will have the tools necessary to help get and keep kids out of gangs.
Having spent 16 years conducting therapeutic parenting, which she described as like foster care but for really tough cases, as well as working with adults in parole and probation, Crumroy said she is up to the challenge.
“When I worked for probation and parole, I became a master trainer for gangs and that was adults,” she said.
She sees the potential for real help for young people at risk of going down the gang path.
“Usually most of them are seeking guidance, structure,” Crumroy said. “They’ll tell you that’s not what they want but it is what they want. A lot of these kids are out on the streets at night time and most of them have weapons.”
Crumroy wanted to start an intervention program to get and keep young people out of gangs, so Stephanie Monroe, executive director, applied for and received a grant from the Governor’s Highway Safety Program.
“We’ll start out with anybody that comes through the court system, juveniles that are labeled as being in some type of a gang. They’ll be ordered to go through the program,” Crumroy said.
There will be weekly classes and activities to give the students something positive to do when school is out. Crumroy will reach out to the community to help develop ways to keep them busy. There will also likely be a curfew, she said.
Gangs recruit new members by filling a void in their lives and making them believe they are part of something bigger, she said.
“We want them to know that there is something else beside hanging out on the street corners when they get out of school,” Crumroy said. “A lot of them want acceptance. A lot of them don’t have that support system, even from their parents so they assume if they can get with a bunch of people that they can go out and they are accepted by that group.”
It is vitally important to get young people involved in alternative activities, she said.
“The main thing is getting them involved in something else that will make them feel worthy and accepted,” she said. “They have to learn that continuing down the gang path will take them to somewhere they don’t want to be.”
As a former therapeutic parent, Crumroy said a former gang member who was on probation with her went on to change his life.
“When he got off of probation I actually put him in my house, got him a job, got him a car, got him his own place,” Crumroy said. “Today he still calls me Mom and he’s off the streets.”
Even though he was in a gang, he still felt that nobody cared about him, even though he did what they told him to do.
Not all youths who go through the court system or get in trouble at school have gang affiliations, but many do and the effects can be dangerous, she said.
“Anytime you have 13, 14-year-olds that are carrying guns in the middle of the night, walking up and down the streets, that’s a problem.”
Reach Terri Ferguson Smith at 910-506-3169.