Atlanta

Program aims to keep kids out of gangs and gangs out of schools in Georgia

FORSYTH, Ga. — Some metro area Student Resource Officers are getting intensive training where they are learning to be great. G.R.E.A.T is an acronym for Gang Resistance, Education and Training.

It’s a program aimed at keeping kids out of gangs, and gangs out of schools.

Channel 2 Action News got a chance to see how it all works while visiting the Georgia Public Safety Training Center in Forsyth.

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When school starts back up in the fall, SROs will be equipped with new tools to gain the trust of students, connect with them, and teach them how to say no and stay away from gangs.

During the training, Channel 2′s Tom Jones traveled to Monroe County to watch as SROs pretended to be students pressured to do the wrong thing.

“Your momma not gonna know Kim. Come on Kim,” one SRO said to another, in a skit they had to perform.

“Yes, she will. We get out there and something happens,” the second SRO, responded, both pretending to be students.

“Kim. Kim,” the 1st SRO said in exasperation.

“Naw! I can’t do that,” the second SRO said, while storming away.

They used roleplaying skits to practice helping students make better decisions and stay out of gangs.

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It’s all a part of a week-long program at the Georgia Public Safety Training Center where metro area SROs and Police are learning the ins and outs of the G.R.E.A.T program in an effort to save lives.

“We losing a lot of youth to gangs. They’re getting younger and younger,” Sgt. Raynard Price with Atlanta Public Schools explained.

Sgt. Price says the program is teaching them how to best connect with kids, give them the tools and confidence to say no to gangs and violence.

“So that way when they’re dealt with a situation where they might have to decide right from wrong they know which decision to make,” he said.

It’s not just officers getting involved. SROs also partnered with state prosecutors to train for school interactions and students.

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“We want to sort of divert students from embarking on gang lives,” Ryan Buchanan, the U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Georgia said.

Buchanan and his office are partnering with the others to offer the training. He says SROs are already in schools.

If officers can gain the confidence of students and use their training, they can impact students in a positive way.

“We are confident that if we can increase those positive interactions that they won’t embark on this life of crime that the gangs are pushing,” Buchanan said.

The U.S. Attorney said the G.R.E.A.T program will be introduced in about 70 schools this year.

The SRO’s told Channel 2 Action News what they are learning they will teach to students, so they can steer their classmates and friends in the right direction.

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