ORANGEBURG COUNTY, S.C. — Speaking out and standing up! That's the motto Orangeburg County leaders are using this year to prevent gang involvement.
"An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure," said Orangeburg Department of Public Safety Chief Michael A. Adams. "I'm a firm believer in that."
For nine years, several county organizations have joined forces with the Department of Public Safety to steer children away from gangs. The director of student services for the school district says previously they could only reach about 2,000 students. Now, because this year is virtual, they can reach 7,100.
"We have seen a lot of older students that we had to do an intervention," explained Orangeburg School District Director of Student Services Hayward Jean. "For our middle school students, we knew they were introduced thoughts and ideals at a young age."
Students heard from several guest speakers about the risk they take when joining a gang. Chief Adams says there has been an increase in gang-related activity in the last three years.
"We do have our issues here," said Adams. "We do have several violent crimes that my department can tie into gang activity. However, we do work diligently to address those gangs. You always hope for the cause and effect when you get out here lead the charge in the reduction of violence."
Both Chief Adams and Sheriff Leroy Ravenell say it takes the community's help to reduce the number of gangs.
"My concern is making it safe for the people in Orangeburg County," expressed Sherriff Leroy Ravenell. "Also, to make people understand there is a way out, and there are concerned people who care about you."