Police and community members are getting a crash course in gangs. Rochester is hosting a three-day event.
On a movie screen at Wilson Foundation Academy, videos depicting gang members from across the nation played, while police officers, school officials, gang intervention experts and others listened intently.
Moses Robinson, a school resource officer for the Rochester Police Department, serves as instructor of the three day course, titled “Gangs 101.” He says the goal is to reach young people on the brink.
“Young people have a tendency to believe that most adults are not that concerned about their issues,” said Robinson. “I absolutely believe in my heart that that couldn't be further from the truth.”
Experts say the existence of gangs and gang members in Rochester rises and falls, but they’re certainly present.
“I see things in a critical manner,” said Paul McFadden, a gang intervention specialist. “To me, it's very big.”
McFadden knows both sides of the fence. He’s also a former gang member who spent time in prison.
“There's a population of young people that are getting older, and they're growing up inside a culture that does not work harmoniously with the norms of society,” he said.
McFadden says the kids in gangs have basic choices to make: Get straight, or go to jail.
Robinson's goal is to help police, schools, agencies and community members figure it all out by working together. He says despite issues with gangs in Rochester, he believes when it comes to intervention and identification, experts here are far ahead of most other cities.
“We're always going to have a potential of having a gang problem,” said Robinson. “Because of our community stakeholders and the way we work together in Rochester, when I travel around the country -- we're far ahead of the game.”
It’s a game McFadden says many young gang members would truly like to walk away from, but just need a nudge.
“There's a pocket of young people -- young men and some young women – as well that are in gangs that are looking for a way out,” he said. “So they already have the desire to want to change. It's just that we have to provide the structure.”