Columbia, SC (WLTX) -- In Richland County, gang activity is forcing some to look at the presence they draw in schools.
It's left law enforcement looking toward communities for more active involvement from its leaders to help in efforts to fight them.
"This summer was terrible," said Richland County Sheriff Leon Lott. "We had a terrible summer due to gang violence."
Lott said the County saw success fighting gangs a decade ago, and then priorities slipped.
"We were very successful, and people started getting complacent, and we didn't have the focus by the community that we had on gangs in the past," Lott said.
Part of that focus was what Lott said was a decrease in requests by community leaders to the Sheriff's Department for educational training and recognition.
Members of the Sheriff's Department would travel to communities, training and teaching leaders on tools to help in efforts to decrease gang presences, Lott said.
That lack of emphasis on active involvement is what he said was another factor, because when kids don't get attention at home, they look toward gangs.
For Pastor Mike Gonzalez, Senior Pastor at Columbia World Outreach, that's exactly why he and members of his church walk into some of Columbia's most dangerous communities.
The communities include the Gonzalez Gardens Apartments, Colony Apartments and Hendrix Mobile Home Park in West Columbia.
"When we do that, they open their doors, because we're not going in to ask anything from the people," said Gonzalez. "We're just going in to be a blessing."
The program is called "Lifeline Outreach."
"What we find is that usually a gang is surrounded by people that are looking to be loved and accepted," said Gonzalez.
"If you're looking for love and acceptance, the world is not the place to look for it. It's in Christ," he said.
For every last Saturday of the month, ten months out of the year, Pastor Gonzalez brings things like face-painting, bounce houses, basketballs for games, and clothing and food donations
It's also mixed with teachings of Gospel.
"Many times, what happens, is that we get to help people with practical manners," Gonzalez said, "whether that be on an educational basis; if kids need help, we can help them with those things there."
Gonzalez said the goal has been the same since beginning 14 years ago.
"It is a ministry, that has as its vision, to meet the need in order to change the heart," Gonzalez said.