Deterring Jacksonville youth from gangs


JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Lee High School alumni Kevin Grant and Joe Hines walk into their old school to talk to students.

Hines now helps run a nonprofit called Justifiable Services aimed at deterring kids from gangs.

"If we start being more leaders than followers, we'll get a lot further," Hines said.

"In order for gang violence to stop, there has to be some type of creative outlet for the children to pour themselves into," Grant said.

Parents were shocked by a presentation put on Wednesday night revealing the extent of gang violence in high schools like Raines, Ribault and Lee.

Grant, however, said he's not shocked one bit.

JSO Gang Unit Lt. Derrick Lewis said two gangs are to blame for a rash of shootings last month. But he said gangs in Jacksonville, especially schools, are not a big problem.

"It's just like any other big city," Lewis said. "We have gangs, but it's not a major issue."

Lewis said Jacksonville has 800 documented gang members in 43 documented gangs all over the city.

A gang called 103rd, for example, is on the Westside, and a gang known as 45th Street is in Northwest Jacksonville.

Lewis said they participate in mostly drug trafficking and robberies and recruit young.

"They try to make the gangs seem big," he said. "A lot of the kids may just be intrigued on whatever they're bragging about. 'I got all this money.' 'This is all I have.' And try to bait them with that."

Lewis said JSO's Gang Unit made up of two sergeants and 15 detectives keeps tabs on gangs in the city. But he wants parents to be aware and pay attention to what's going on in their kids' lives.

"If they're repping or calling themselves a certain group, entertainment group, if they're not on a high school basketball, baseball, football team, something positive, it's probably something you should look into," Lewis said.

"Don't let your environment be a by-product of your destiny," Hines said. "Because you can be all you can be, but if you have something around you pulling you back, you'll never see where you're going."