HENDERSON — Rusk County commissioners agreed Monday to spend drug seizure money to set up a new anti-gang program, said Sheriff Jeff Price.
Chief Deputy Charles Helton said the aim of the program is to prevent “wannabe” gang members from turning into “gonnabe” gang members.
Price said he wanted to nurture a relationship with youth in the community.
The commissioners voted unanimously to allow Price to use $5,000 of seizure funds to set up the anti-gang civil citizen leadership law enforcement programs at the Rusk County Boys and Girls Club.
While gang problems might not seem to be a big concern in rural parts of East Texas, Price said he believes it can rear its ugly head in any location.
“Is there anywhere that drugs and gangs aren’t a problem?” Price asked. “We want to try to reach out to kids before they get ensnared by bad lifestyle choices.”
Price, who took office in January, said he’s not sure what previous administrations have done in the way of education and community outreach, but that he believes it’s important for children to have positive interactions with law enforcement. His hope is that investments of time and resources in crime prevention will pay off in lower crime rates in years to come.
“Our youth is our future, plain and simple,” Price said.
Sgt. David Roberts, who is coordinating the interaction with the Boys and Girls Club said there are two programs planned for later this month. One will bring older children from the club to a courtroom during an arraignment process. The other will consist of officers from the sheriff’s department and Henderson Police Department going to the club to visit with children of all ages.
“It’s important for kids to be comfortable around law enforcement officers,” Roberts said. “We want them to see our uniforms and feel safe.”
The older children are scheduled to visit the court of Pct. 5 Justice of the Peace Joe Sorrells on July 17 and the officers are scheduled to visit the club on July 23.
Roberts said he hopes to have officers on both motorcycles and horses at the club, to appeal to as many children as possible.