Families fighting to keep their kids out of gangs

Parents, grandparents in high-crime areas struggle to keep teens on right path


JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – After days of talk by community members and police about gang violence in sections of Northwest Jacksonville, News4Jax went to the neighborhoods to talk to parents raising children in areas where gang affiliation is common.

Every person News4Jax talked to in these neighborhoods said police can only do so much to stop the gang violence. They said parenting is key in keeping the young people out of trouble.

"There are problems in this neighborhood. There's plenty of drugs in this neighborhood," said Ann Herndon, a grandmother living in New Town.

A sign in the neighborhood makes it hard to tell if the neighborhood watch is still active.

If it is, it's just a stone's throw from a pile of teddy bears and balloons that memorialize two women who were shot and killed on the corner.

That shooting last week was the latest round of violence to hit New Town, where residents don't need to look or listen too hard to find signs of a gang.

"I'm glad he moved out of this neighborhood, because there's something on every corner," Herndon said of her grandson, who left her house a few months ago. "I would just try to talk to him. It's all I could do.  At the time, his dad was living here, and it helped. His dad was over him."

For others still raising teens here, they hope discipline keeps their kids out of gang life.

One dad, who asked not be named, arrived within seconds Monday to break up a fight between his son and other boys as they left Butler Middle School.

"I tried to find out what it is, where I can talk to their parents, because I don't believe in them fighting with each other," the dad said. "They still have to go to the same school and walk together every day."

He said setting children on the right path starts at home.

"If you're not teaching your kids the right thing, not implementing the right thing, they'll do what they see out in the streets, or whatever friends tell them," the dad said. "I'm teaching my children to be young strong black men, instead of being violent and being in gangs, being in the street."

Another parent, named Amy, said she's grateful her son is a video game fanatic and chooses to stay indoors.

"It's got a lot to do with home," she said. "A lot of parents aren't watching their kids. They don't know what's going on. It's horrible."

For other families, it's an iron fist of discipline that keeps their young ones out of a gang or the back of a police cruiser.

"I don't play the radio. I don't take no crap from none of them, that's what I mean by I don't play radio," grandmother Bernice Eady said. "They know I get their butt."

The idea of an earlier curfew for teens has been proposed by some local activists to the city.

Everyone in the neighborhood seemed to have heard about the plan, and no one was opposed to it.

But Eady said any proposed curfew won't affect her grandchildren.

"They know they got certain rules, be in at a certain time before street lights come on and I don't play, no ifs ands or buts about it," Eady said. "If you raise them up like that, they'll stay like that." 

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