Charlotte, N.C. - Charlotte City Council voted to accept a grant that will help curb gang violence in the city.
It's more than 600,000 dollars from the Department of Justice.
A big chunk of it would be used to buy cameras that will help police monitor gang activity throughout the city. The money will also be used to train officers. But the most important part of the grant - according to the mayor - is programs that help catch youth before they join a gang.
"We really try to instill in the young guys that they have potential. Maybe they've slipped up a time or two, but they still have potential," said George Wilkerson.
He leads up a gang prevention program for 7th through 12th graders at First Baptist Church-West. It's called GAP.
"We had a young man who was a teenage father and was involved in some gang activity. At the last session, he said, can I come back and volunteer. It's those kind of stories that keep us enthused and keeps pushing us to work with these young men," said Wilkerson.
More than 80,000 dollars from the anti-gang grant will go to prevention. In particular, it will expand the GAP program for a summer session when kids are out of school.
"We can't just be working with crime when it happens. We also have to be preventing it. We have to look at those who can still be steered away with the right influences and the right mentors," said Charlotte Mayor Jennifer Roberts.
She says funding through the grant won't be enough to battle gangs in the Queen City.
According to the state's gang report released earlier this year, more than 40 gangs have been identified in Mecklenburg County alone. A majority of the members are between the ages of 18 and 25.
"We need every adult who cares about young people to think about being a tutor, being a mentor, watching out for young people who are getting in the wrong crowd, losing interest in school. That's the time you need to reach out and be someone they can look up to," said Roberts.
We also learned from the state's gang report that - out of the 100 counties in the state - the number of gangs has increased from around 850 in 2008 to more than 1,000 this year.
The grant is for two years. CMPD will buy 20 gang mobile cameras to move around the city to monitor gang-related activity. 6 additional cameras will be fixed in gang hot spots.