Gang violence is infiltrating cities of all sizes and it continues to be a problem in Leon County. Law enforcement officers and educators are teaming up for the fight with a national expert in town to help.
Gang investigators estimate that are 150 validated gang members or associates in Leon County, saying a "good percentage" are juveniles, and they say the violence among them is only getting worse.
DET Grady Jordan of the Leon County Sheriff's Office, Northwest Regional Director of Florida Gang Investigators Association, said, "We're seeing more violent acts within the area, as violent as some shootings and as little as aggravated beatings in parking lots."
Gang symbols have been found on several notebooks and book bags in Leon County schools. All are now property of the Sheriff's Office, used to educate the community about the signs to look for.
The education is now being taken a step further. The Sheriff's Office and the school board teamed up to bring in gang expert Ernest Cuthbertson to talk about ways to curb the violence.
Ernest said, "The group we are speaking with is dynamic with law enforcement, with communities, with schools, and that's what it takes because these are the three entities within the community that are dealing with the kids."
Cuthberston shared the influences, like music and the media, but he told the group of educators and law enforcement officers from across the state, fighting the violence starts with them; getting to the kids while they're young and before the violence is taken too far. And that goes back to recognizing the signs and the influence.